Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hour of Dream, part 5

At last, a continuation of my campaign, "Last of the Drowsbane." When last I left off, Tengrym had freed his former mentor in a chance meeting. He was tracking down his nemesis, who had made his way to Scardale in order to ship tons of magically enspelled grains abroad in order to subjugate a large number of surface dwellers for the drow. He was also hoping that his brother would be successful in summoning the combined garrisons that occupied the city.


Scene 9

Setup: Tengrym and Ara sneak through the night to find a quiet and seemingly unoccupied granary near the shipyard
CF: 4
Altered? Yes — instead of a quiet place, much activity is afoot

Is it Shandorin or his forces/allies? Yes…

Are more drow present? Yes, and… (some orc slaves)
Are they loading casks for transport? Yes…
Do they outnumber even what the combined garrison can handle? Yes…
Note: Ara fails stealth test
Do the sentinels that spot Ara close in immediately on the two? Yes, but… (they are overconfident and in a smaller number (4 drow minions for each character))

Together, the two padded toward the deeper areas of the dockside warehouses. During this late hour, the place was surprisingly teeming with activity. Dark elves stood guard about the perimeter, and orcs began loading casks onto three carvels. The numbers were astonishing. With the paltry garrison of each nation in Scardale, their combined might still couldn’t hope to be at even footing with the number of dark elves, orcs, and whatever other forces Shandorin had available.


“Where is Thedric?!” whispered Tengrym to himself. Still, they couldn’t hope to succeed without the Cormyreans, Sembians, and all the others.

He turned to Ara to discuss their plan, when he saw several stealthy shapes creeping close. “Look out!” he cried as drow descended upon them.

A group of four got the jump on Ara, striking with such surprising speed and ruthlessness. Somehow, the elf swordsman readied his newfound arms and tried to put up a defense. He took the brunt of the assault and Tengrym thought his old mentor was done. However, he was made of resilient stuff.

Before Tengrym could intervene, four more put him to the test. He was flanked and cut off from his former teacher. Steel clanged, and all of the half-elf’s nerves were tested. A slice got through his guard, but fortunately, his shirt of mail held. He beat them back methodically, not daring to split his attention, and beginning with the weakest member. They were fiercer than those who had escorted Ara to the warehouse. One fell, and then another after relentless and patient blade work. The last was tenacious and put up a firm resistance. At last, Tengrym spun like a dancer, using one of the graceful feints that Ara had taught him.

The swords-master had finished his duel at the same time Tengrym dealt with his four. Though it initially appeared ill for Ara, only the dark elves’ ambush had granted them a momentary advantage against a seasoned veteran.

Does this draw attention from others? Yes, and…* (Shandorin sees and shouts an alarm)

*Twist: Tangential; Cubes — alarm wake-up, ask question, chaos
Interpretation: Hapray wakes up and causes a delay with his questioning and chaos erupts

At this point, the two could hardly catch their breath or share a word. Across the yard between stacks of cargo, Tengrym and the white-haired Shandorin locked eyes on one another. There could be no doubt…the scarred visage was clear even at the distance of a hundred paces in dim lighting. Shandorin’s eyes registered recognition and bewilderment. Those brief tense moments seemed to last a great while. At last, the ally of the dark elves shouted an alarm.

“Intruders! Every man, elf, and orc…bring me the head of the half-elf and any allies!” The scarred renegade’s finger pointed.

Others had already come upon the disturbance having heard the brief struggle. All at once, it seemed the entire bustling throng of the shipyards simultaneously turned toward the two. There was no direct line of escape, but plenty of bolt holes through which a resourceful mouse could scurry. A group of six orcs dropped their arm loads of cargo and picked up axes and clubs, charging forward. From another corner came five more dark elves while another trio rounded a blind.

They were trapped!

Suddenly, a huge form smashed into the surprised orcs, scattering them in all directions. Hapray charged in, swinging his club blindly at anything within his reach. Boxes of cargo splintered and surprised screams cried out.

“Where is that tricksy elf?!” he screamed. A rage was over the great ogre, and friend or foe, it did not matter — he wished nothing more than to wreak havoc on anyone foolish enough to stop before his frenzied charge.

“Split up!” whispered Tengrym to his companion. “Try to delay them until my brother can summon help. I’ll make for the mill — no cargo should leave this city tonight!”

Ara nodded and led a group away. The ill-tempered (but well-timed) entry of the ogre was just the diversion needed to stave off disaster — even if temporary.
Tengrym darted forward into the labyrinth of stacks, losing pursuit and spying eyes. He wove his way further from the fray. Behind him, the ogre was making a tremendous ruckus — all the better!

Does he come across anyone? Yes…*

*Twist: PC positive — creepy face, open treasure chest
Interpretation: Tengrym catches up with Shandorin with a small group of dark elves — he is unwittingly leading Tengrym to the cache of magical grains

The half-elf stopped to catch his breath and get his bearings. He was closer to the mill. Part of the Sember powered a paddlewheel which was now disengaged — nothing turned. He heard the gurgling of the lazy dark waters swirling around the locked paddle. Suddenly, he heard the approach of voices barely audible above the sounds of distant clamor.
Tengrym smiled. Just before him passed the form of his nemesis, the scarred man’s dark cape fanned out behind him as he passed. Several more dark shadows tailed him — more dark elves.

“Follow me!” Shandorin hissed to his unseen escort. “We must secure the remainder of the wheat…”

The figures passed over a narrow bridge and entered the old mill. Quickly and stealthily, Tengrym followed shortly after. Waters gurgled under the bridge as he slipped through the door which was still ajar. Once inside, he crouched and allowed his eyes to adjust to the dark.

Are there more within? Yes…

Are they orc grunts? Yes, and… (several larger bugbear/half-ogre types for sheer strength)
What’s going on with the grain? heart, traveling sack, oatmeal
Interpretation: the remaining grain is being offloaded to casks at the center of the mill space; getting there is not easy
Do the workers have masks on? Yes…

There was noise and loud voices, along with considerable banging and grunting. Beyond a short corridor was a flight of stairs leading to a dimly-lit open area. Tengrym cautiously continued this way, stopping at the landing to survey his surroundings. The mill was an open, dust-covered space around a central stone millworks. Orcs and larger goblinoids wearing masks were busy directing freshly milled grains into wooden casks. Shandorin must have taken some other route not seen. He and the drow elves were stationed on a catwalk overlooking the central area from above. The disfigured half-elf was shouting orders down below.

Tengrym withdrew a few steps and considered his next move. He had no idea what might happen if he were to try and directly disintegrate the poisoned grains. They might be extremely volatile, or spread their deadly sleep effect around a concentrated area, killing many in the town. No…too risky to attempt that route. Tengrym decided on a more difficult route.

Tengrym stepped out into the open and chanted loudly, producing a pinch of sand and an eyelash. The orcs and half-ogre immediately turned to face the speaking voice and abruptly fell asleep, toppling where they stood.

From above, Shandorin commanded his dark elves to descend. “Capture him! Your queen’s prize awaits!”

Then to Tengrym, the disfigured half-elf pointed a finger down. “Stand where you are!” That voice had the power of magic behind it. Tengrym felt the power of it — the sheer will — seizing his motions. Need somehow drove his powers of resistance beyond their norm. He wrenched free of the force as the four dark elves raced down stairs — however, he still froze, guessing well the nature of the fell spell and feigning its success against his will.

When he heard the booted steps of the drow near, he uttered a word of arcane command. He abruptly disappeared and reappeared a mere step from Shandorin, sword in hand. The villain’s face palled and he began uttering another spell while drawing his sword.
Tengrym was the faster.

Shandorin grimaced as a nick opened an ugly wound in his already scarred face. Had he not aborted his spell and pulled back at the last moment, the swing might have taken off his head.

Below, Tengrym heard the ‘click’ of hand crossbows at the ready. Without moving his gaze from his enemy’s eyes, Shandorin put up a hand towards his dark skinned allies. “We shall settle this now,” he said to Tengrym, replacing his scowl with a hideous smirk. The two paced around one another among the rickety heights.

“You are a Drowsbane,” said Tengrym. “What was your price? Or did the drow place some fell enchantment on you?”

What does he answer? Leading a Friend

“You sound like your father,” hissed his counterpart. “The curse is laid upon you…”

“Your blood is thrice cursed if you are in league with these vile villains.”

“Not so. That part of my blood is purged. Give up now…join me and abandon the old ways. Vow allegiance to dark ones, and the Spider Queen may see fit to purge that aspect of your soul for which she thirsts.”

“It’s over, Shandorin. The men of Sembia, Cormyr, and the Moonsea know of your plan. You cannot succeed…”

“Whether this aspect of the plan fails or no will have no effect. It cannot break the curse laid upon the last of the Drowsbane.”

“There is a prophecy…you well know of it. What is it?”

“Join me…I will not ask again,” insisted Shandorin, ignoring the question.

“You must tell me,” repeated Temgrym.

They circled more like quarreling cats sizing one another up in a darkened alley.

“Enough talk!” shouted Shandorin.

At that, he launched himself forward. The two clashed, matching blow with parry, anticipating one another’s feints and lithe steps. For many turns, neither opponent gained ground nor exploited any weakness. This continued for what seemed like an interminable interval. Both were evenly matched. Both were equally trained in arms. Both were astonishingly similar in style and gait.

At last, Shandorin worked Tengrym into cramped quarters and sliced along his arm. An inch of exposed flesh at his elbow opened on his sword arm. Tengrym’s riposte was twice as forceful and three times as surprising as he refused to allow the minor touch slow him. Shandorin limped away, knowing a deep gouge was scored his outside thigh on his right leg.

The two heaved breaths and took a moment to take stock of the situation. Tengrym seemed slightly better off with only a shallow wound along his elbow and tricep and a thin line of red along his left forearm that he did not remember getting.

The drow began creeping up the stairs again, wondering if their ally was done in. However, it was not so.

Shagri-chozh-WAN!” Shandorin cried, gripping a yellow amulet that hung about his neck. It flashed momentarily and the disfigured half-elf launched forward.

With renewed fury, the villain thrashed, foregoing his refined fencing style in favor of barbaric ferocity driven by strength. Tengrym put up a defense parrying the blows. However, some supernatural strength had taken hold of Shandorin’s limbs and Tengrym was numbed by the impacts. Sweat beaded on both combatant’s faces.

Finally, Tengrym’s blade was battered from his grip and skittered across the floor, falling to the ground below with a loud clang. Tengrym uttered a spell of blasting, but staggering back, he stammered and the spell failed in a useless display of light. In the meantime, several of the drow were near at hand, and another had roused the orcs below that Tengrym had put to sleep.

Turning from the scene below, Tengrym faced his nemesis, who had now uttered a word of magic and lunged forward, gripping Tengrym’s neck with a vice-like grip in his off-hand. Simultaneously, a white-hot electrical charge ran along Shandorin’s arm into Tengrym’s body. He swooned and nearly passed out, convulsing from the powerful charge. He fought to draw air through his closing throat.

Do the drow intervene? Yes, and… (A little birdie flies in)

Note: rolling some cubes, I generate appropriate on-the-fly stats and spells for Dynas Dundragon, currently disguised as an owl.
Does Dynas warn Tengrym telepathically (one of his spells)? Yes, but… (not by spell)
Does Shandorin deny the drow their prize? Yes…

The nearest dark elf stepped behind Shandorin. In a strange accent, he whispered, “Release the sacrifice!”

Still clutching Tengrym’s throat, Shandorin shot the drow a hateful look, enhanced by his disfigurement. “Step back, dogs!” he hissed, now fueled by bloodlust beyond reasoning. “This last Drowsbane is mine!”

The two drow warriors drew steel. At the same moment came a screech and flutter of wings as an old owl circled overhead, gaining entry through some shorn roofing or ruined ventilhation.

Shandorin continued his death grip on Tengrym’s throat. Emboldened, the first of the dark elves stepped forward and pushed the disfigured half-elf away. Shandorin fell and Tengrym was released, gasping for breath. Two dark elves descended upon him while the third stepped over the fallen Shandorin.
Tengrym quickly regained his wits and recited a quick snatch of arcane rote. A bright flash knocked one of the drow down senseless, but the other had shielded himself from the bright light. Now combat broke out in two places on the confined upper deck. Just then, the roused orcs were commanded to help one of the drow and they slowly shook off the remaining effects of sleep and grabbed whatever tools they could to aid in the battle.

Suddenly, the owl whooshed down to the floor and morphed into a man — none other than the wizened Dynas Dundragon, the outcast court wizard of the Drowsbane family. The wizard hurled a mighty ball of fire, exploding against one side of the old mill. Screams of the dying sounded as most of the throng of orcs fell into blackened heaps. Flames quickly leapt up the side of the old building.

Tengrym got only a quick glance at the carnage. He noted the inferno licking up the dry wooden walls. He strove against a wicked dark elf with a sword in hand. Nearby, Shandorin was also engaged with a second. Quick sword work dropped his opponent.

The Drowsbane could not guess the source of the explosion. He still fought for breath. The drow attacked, going for his neck with the pommel of his sword. The two danced — Tengrym not so graceful as his counterpart.

Does Shandorin attack the remaining drow? Yes…

The disfigured villain interceded between Tengrym and the drow. A savage slice drove the dark elf back before he finally fell to countless deadly slices.

Tengrym could have uttered a word and teleported out of harm’s way. However, his own rationality had fled him. He could think of nothing but defeating his nemesis — a man who represented the ultimate treachery and antithesis of his proud ancestral heritage.

Instead, he rolled to one side near the ledge overlooking the mill below. Flames continued to lick the side of the building. Now smoke filled the upper portions. At that moment, he saw Dynas’s fierce eyes. He took no time to wonder. He also saw his magical blade below. With a quick two words, the sword was hoisted from the floor magically and sped with a flash into Tengrym’s waiting hand. He turned just in time as Shandorin came in for the offensive.

Rather than meet his blade, Tengrym mustered his speed and leapt, turning and kicking the savage attacker, knocking him through the guard rail and over the deadfall to the mill floor.

Is it a Master [TN 13] fall? No… (it is just ‘Expert [TN 11]’)

Shandorin flailed through the air. He landed hard on his side, the wind knocked out from him. Smoke continued to billow, choking Tengrym where he stood regarding the form below. Dynas saluted him with a sarcastic smirk. He made a frightening gesture, and two remaining orcs that had not been obliterated by they powerful fires ran through an exit. “You’re welcome,” the wizard said to Tengrym.

Tengrym began to cough. He pointed to the form below. “Don’t…let him escape…” Then he recalled the rote to a featherfall spell.

Dynas turned to the man who brought himself to his knees and lumbered after the two fleeing orcs. “Not so fast!” Dynas said, rolling up his sleeves. “Attum brimbiae, salloh NAH!” he shouted. Motes of light shot from his fingertips and took hold of the fleeing figure in black. Where the man had been, now was only a gray tortoise.

“Hmph!” commented the wizard. “That should do it!”

Tengrym controlled his coughing enough to utter the spell. Down he floated through the smoke to the floor to stand beside the wizard. “I haven’t yet forgiven or forgotten, Dynas,” he said.

“I know,” said Dynas, rolling his eyes. “You made that abundantly clear in the Elvenwood.”

Tengrym scooped up the fleeing tortoise and dropped him in a sack secured to his waist. “That’s a humiliating trick you have,” he commented. The wizard only smirked.

“Fine job burning down this place, wizard!” added Tengrym. He now looked at the grains around the mill with newfound worry. “That chaff is dangerous! We have to do something…I don’t know what it will do if ignited.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?!”

Tengrym wrung his hands in desperation and frustration. “Why didn’t I…?! If you had…!” He abandoned it and fled, the wide-eyed wizard running after.

Does the chaff explode? Yes, but… (not immediately — they have time to escape)*
*Twist: Thread (move away) — Hunt down Shandorin and challenge him in single combat

Interpretation: Somehow in the hustle, Tengrym loses the bag with the tortoise…by some means, the morphed villain manages to escape!
Have the garrisons arrived (due to Thedric) to do battle with the enemy? Yes, but… (they are sorely pressed)

When the two fled the building, the battle had renewed. A huge ogre was tearing up large tracts of the port, while a tight ring of drow and orcs hemmed in a desperate few fighters. Many of them bore the livery of the combined garrisons. Thedric did it! He succeeded thought Tengrym. But they were losing.

Suddenly, from behind, an enormous bright flash exploded, followed by an impossibly loud thunderclap. All were bowled over by a tremendous shockwave that leveled the entire mill and much around it.

Do the enemy lose their fight at this point? Yes…*
*Twist: Tangential — low fuel gauge, meteor

Interpretation: without better ideas, this could be some king of portent…low gas, a waning sickle moon, meteor…a comet

Then it was quiet. Before there had been combat and death, but now only eerie silence. It took some time, but the survivors, both allied and opposed, slowly got to their feet.

A lone figure cried, “Look!”

All heads followed his finger toward the heavens. There, they saw a curious sign. High in the sky, Sel√Ľne passed through a break in the clouds, now only a sliver of molten silver. Almost more dazzling and crossing at a perpendicular angle was the bright tail of a huge comet. Every beholder knew that they witnessed some great portent, but they could not begin to understand its meaning.

Almost immediately, the remaining drow and goblinoids turned and fled, though their numbers had been previously overwhelming. A charge among the garrisoned forces sounded, and the warriors began to route the enemy. Most of the orcs surrendered, far preferring the doom of men over the crueler dark elves. The latter fled.

Where does the enemy lead? earth, digging hole

Tengrym and Dynas followed after. The drow, passing like shades in the night, fled along the coast south away from the river Sember. There, just beyond the buildings was a thick tangle of woods. They were making for it.

Do the drow get away? Yes, and… (Their underground complex has a magical gate to spirit them away)

The drow had a lead. When Tengrym and the others at last reached the wood, they discovered a stair leading within the ground. The half-elf summoned light and the allies descended. Within was only a cylindrical chamber etched with runes on the wall and a strange design was on the floor.

“A gate,” observed Dynas.

“Can we use it to find them?” asked Tengrym.

“It would take me considerable time, but perhaps…”

“How much time?”

Dynas shrugged. “Hours? Weeks? I cannot begin to know until I begin to research. And I don’t have access to my tomes.”

Tengrym stared at the room in dismay. Yet, there was still the magical grain which was not all accounted for. They had to regroup and have counsel with the powers that were in control of Scardale. At least he had the scheming Shandorin in captivity, he reminded himself, patting his sack. To his shock and amazement, the sack was ripped open! Had Shandorin chewed through the canvas? Quickly, he retraced his steps, but he could not find a tortoise in the chaos. When he returned to Dynas, the wizard confirmed that the spell was not lasting.

"You wanted me to restrain him, yes?" answered the wizard. "A permanent changing is a more difficult spell...not one that is simply cast willy-nilly! It takes time and effort, and the appropriate laboratory if one is to do it well."

Tengrym had lost his nemesis again! There were clearly more tricks up the villain’s sleeve. Tengrym knew that the disfigured one knew much about Baolnor’s tablet.

Conclusion

CF: -1
NPCs: Anoris Shandorin, Dark Elves, Thedric, Illistyl Elventree, the basilisk, Dynas Dundragon, Orlimpar Eveningfall, Arlgoth the Mighty, Soldiers of Sembia, Arafraulyn, Hapray the Ogre
Threads: Find a new safe haven, Stop Shandorin’s plan, Hunt down Shandorin and challenge him in single combat


This was a long scene and climactic. It was great to return. One more scene should satisfy to tie up all the loose ends with the grain...but who knows? Maybe some twists will prolong this one. The protagonist wasn't successful in his aims, but it was exciting nonetheless...and an escaping villain to return another time is great!

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