1. Where’s that Goblin?
Having recovered from the Feast with the Beast, the merry band of scamps was enjoying the freedom of the woods around Tradetown. All were seated around engaged in idle chit chat, then Gorlab leaned in to speak.
"Pigsy came up to me just now” he said "but spoke as if possessed by Raij, the Beastman God of War.” Brun Casta turned to face him, looking concerned.
"Go on,” said the cleric.
"He offered me rewards if I renounced Vhaeraun. I refused immediately. I thought it best to confess.”
"Well done, The Masked One will be pleased. We will say no more of it.”
Then the conversation turned to their next move. They had three courses of action. The first, and most lucrative, was to seek out Ganab the Nasty, the leader of the goblins. A price of 30,000GP had been put on his head for daring to attack Tradetown and losing. Another avenue to follow was the map that Joruus had of the swamps. It showed the way, it was rumoured, to a ruined library. Mmm, old books, new dosh? Their final course of action was to seek out the Blood Banner for their new allies, the Beastmen. That was ruled out almost immediately. It would require long term planning and meticulous preparation. It would have to wait until a more opportune time. They decided to hunt down Ganab and then go south to find the library in the swamp.
"I think we should split into two parties” said Gul, "Gorlab and the Wolfsbane, the quicker ship, can take Kargoth to the forests of Shanizar. There he can seek out his fellow Astralla worshippers and try and get them on our side. The rest of us will find the goblin camp. Let us meet here again, and then we can work out how we will deal with Ganab.”
The two ships rose from the ground and set off on their respective missions. The Wolfsbane made its flight without mishap. A group of large insects approached the ship but thought better of attacking and flew off. The Retribution also had a trouble free flight and succeeded in finding the goblin camp by the River Undine. The crew could clearly see around three hundred goblins, males, females and children. At the centre was a wagon close to the river bank, gaudily painted and obviously belonging to Ganab. They quickly flew back to rendezvous with The Wolfsbane.
When they had all reconvened they debated the best course of action. The discussion became heated with the three commanders almost coming to blows. Are cracks appearing in the wall of revolutionary unity? At one point Gul stormed off shouting:
"No one takes any notice of what I say. Decide yourselves. The captains always decide, anyway.” He came back a short time later and sat sullenly listening to the plan Gorlab and Brun had worked out. Not the first hissy fit from the General; definitely not the last. Brun began:
"We fly in low at dawn and disembark quickly. Goll uses the "Death Mist” scroll and the rest of us move towards the wagon. Hopefully we can get in and out before the goblins have time to react or at least get to us. We’ll have to come in down wind or else the mist will blow back at us.”
Gorlab added "We also need to protect the ships so we’ll only use The Wolfsbane. Someone, either me or the general, will have to cast a protection spell on the ship. I hear Ganab is no mean magic user.”
"That’s true” admitted Gul, "he gave the cavalry a shock with his fireballs during the battle. Nearly won it, too.”
The following morning they awoke early, ate breakfast and Zaen, Goll, Gul, Brun, Gorlab and Tyrran the Tiefling set off in The Wolfsbane with Arla at the helm. Gul cast ‘Firewall’ on the ship to protect it from any fireballs Ganab might throw at them. It didn’t take long for them to reach there destination and Arla swooped in low over the river. Brun blessed the company, Gorlab cast ‘Haste’ on all and ‘Fly’ on himself and the six leapt from the ship as it touched down. Arla swiftly took the ship out of harm’s way and the mission began in earnest.
They could see the wagon ahead of them with five or six guards around a fire outside. Goll stood for a moment and summoned the ‘Death Mist’ using his scroll. The deadly cloud drifted off, but didn’t do much damage. Gul put all but one of the guards to sleep and Brun threw down a bundle of sticks which instantly began to writhe and hiss. The rest advanced on the wagon. All thoughts of surprise were dismissed from their minds as they heard a howling which got louder with each passing second. They looked round. "Warg riders heading this way from down stream” shouted Goll. "And more coming from our rear” warned Zaen. The two stood their ground and loosed fireballs at the approaching riders. The rest of the company kept going towards Ganab’s wagon, Tyrran going around to the opposite side looking for another way in. The fireballs hit their targets and the warg riders disappeared in flames only to be replaced by goblins on foot, some carrying bows, others with close quarter weapons. Soon the party was beset on all sides by little green men. A head emerged from the door of the wagon to see what all the fuss was about. It disappeared quickly when it found out!
Zaen and Goll again sent half of the attacking goblins to hell with another fireball salvo and Gul engaged the last guard standing. Brun‘s snakes killed the sleeping guards while Gorlab and Brun rushed for the wagon’s door. Brun felled one of the hapless guards attempting to bar their way. Gorlab succeeded in getting into the wagon and came face to face with Ganab. Tyrran found a window and began to climb through it. Unfortunately he missed his footing and fell to the ground. Soon more goblins were rushing to their leader’s aid.
Zaen moved closer to his companions and Goll and Gul threw fireballs at the goblin horde. The wagon was shaking, the sound of battle rang out and cries of "Take that you bounder” and "Don’t you point that twig at me” could be heard. Brun was smashing the side of the wagon with his mace in an attempt to get in and again Tyrran could be heard falling on his bum from the other side of the wooden contraption. "Someone’s nailed this bl***y window shut!” This last said in tiefling. Eventually he managed to climb in and he sneaked up behind Ganab.
The goblins advanced. Goll received a hail of incoming arrows but none hit the mark. From the wagon came the voice of a defiant pseudo dragon: "Magic resistance works. Gerrin there.” Brun’s snakes slithered through the door of the wagon but the goblin guards chopped them into pieces. Gul charged at the advancing goblins, killing two. Gorlab took out one of Ganab’s body guards and Zaen donned the wraith mask and summoned his wraith. The good guys (?) were gaining the upper hand.
The green tide wavered. Some halted, unwilling to take any more fireball strikes. Some began to retreat which quickly turned into a rout. Soon only a die hard few remained. Gul continued to attack, with Zaen and the wraith in support. Gorlab continued his struggle inside the wagon, narrowly avoiding Ganab’s magic but taking a hit from the guard. He was now aided by Tyrran who succeeded in taking Ganab unawares and stabbing him in the back.
Meanwhile the rest of the party had joined Gul in attacking the remaining goblins still trying to save their leader. The ground was soaked in goblin blood and it was not long before our heroes were victorious. With the menace removed they all rushed over to the wagon to help Gorlab. A cry of dismay: "Sue, my precious, you’re hit.” The party saw Sue lying on the ground near the door, her wings fluttering uselessly. She had tried to get past Ganab but he managed to hit her as she flew by. He also paid Tyrran back for the earlier surprise and incapacitated him with a well aimed blow. A lightning bolt flashed towards Ganab from Gorlab’s finger tips but the goblin leader held up an orb and reflected the spell back at the Drow. He again attacked the Drow with his magic but Gorlab avoided being hit. Soon everyone was milling around the wagon.
Gorlab rushed out and shouted a warning to the rest about the Orb of Reflection. His attentions were then centred on the wounded pseudo dragon. Zaen, his wraith and Brun went in to the wagon, followed by Goll. Gul waited outside, just in case. Zaen attacked the goblin but it was the wraith who claimed the kill, draining the fugitive of his life’s essence with an icy touch. Brun, meanwhile, bandaged the tiefling and using his healing clerical powers. Unfortunately the tiefling was still left with a pronounced limp. L-I-M-P, pronounced limp (the old ones are the best).
A search of the wagon was then made, revealing two chests and two magic items. Ganab had been carrying a Wand of Enfeeblement, which Zaen took, and the Orb of Reflection, which was claimed by Gorlab. The two chests were of different sizes. The smaller one contained 11,000GP. The larger of the two proved to be more interesting. The chest was found to be made to the highest finish, with many a draw and hinged compartment folding out to reveal a canteen. Obviously a custom built piece of craftsmanship. The knives, forks, spoons and plates all bore the crest and name of the King of Amborr.
"Anyone heard of this King of Amborr?” called Gorlab. The silence spoke eloquently.
"How much d’ya think its worth?” asked Brun.
"25, 30k, something like that” estimated Zaen. Gorlab then carried the recovering Sue and sat by the camp fire, tenderly stroking her and cooing softly in her ear.
Meanwhile outside, the camp was in turmoil with women, children and deserters all trying to flee the scene and rescue their belongings at the same time. Gul decided to take advantage and maybe capture a few slaves. The last contingent on the Retribution had been jettisoned during a vortex storm. A new batch would come in handy. He came across a tent close to the wagon and pulled open the flap. To his delight he found five goblins tied up. "I’ll have those,” he thought. He was even more delighted to find a beautiful elven female and he dragged her into the open. Her name, it turned out, was Wish. He would have to look into this later, he decided.
When everyone had finished pillaging and generally being barbaric, Gul whipped out his globe and called the Wolfsbane. All was loaded on, including Ganab’s body, and they flew happily ever after back to Tradetown and their reward. Not a bad day’s work.
2. CSI: Tradetown
They arrived back at camp and organised transport to take their booty to the warehouse. When all was safely stashed away they ordered a slave to pick up the body of Ganab and prepared to go to the Administrator to claim their reward. As they were about to leave there was a knock at the warehouse door. A slave went to see who was there.
"Masters, there is someone to see you.”
Closely following behind the goblin were six draconian guards who summoned them to Gygax’s citadel.
"What a coincidence” said Goll, "we were just going there.”
"It’s not a courtesy call” said the sergeant. "You are to come along to help with our enquiries.”
Intrigued, they followed the guards to the citadel. The goblin slave hurried to keep up with them, burdened as he was with Ganab’s dead body. They were eventually led to a set of double doors, guarded by two more draconians. The sight which greeted them on entering came as something of a shock. Along with the Administrator and two more guards were a number of Drow, two females and two males. Birz, who had been deep undercover for some time, gave them a knowing wink. Gul and Gorlab both looked at each other as they realised who one of the females was. She was unmistakeable with her disfigured face and angry look. Faylinn, their former captain and reason they were on the run, glared at them. Her scarring was courtesy of the rebellious crew and she was out for revenge. Both parties glared at each other in mutual hatred. The Administrator spoke in his best ‘Taggart’ voice. "There’s been a murrdah.”
"What’s that got to do with us?” asked Brun.
The Administrator continued, dropping the unconvincing Glaswegian accent:
"The body of Raska, merchant and well known dodgy character, was found on the road north of here. A flying ship was seen taking off shortly afterwards. This Raska was an associate of yours, yes?”
They couldn’t deny it.
Gul stepped forward to defend his group. "Raska was important to us, why would we want to kill him?”
"Maybe you fell out over a deal gone wrong? Need I go on?”
"We were flying off to find Ganab. Here is his body to prove it.” He snapped his fingers and the slave dropped the dead Ganab at the Administrator’s feet. "We had been discussing our plans and were no where near the road.”
Faylinn shouted out: "Typical Drow tactics. Dream up an alibi which can’t be proved or disproved......”
Gul interrupted "Don’t talk about underhand Drow tactics; you’re a past mistress at deceit. You’re trying to frame us......”
The guards moved between the two as they traded accusation and counter accusation. The Administrator spoke firmly.
"On this occasion it is not clear who perpetrated the evil deed so no one will be imprisoned, but let me assure you; anymore of this disruptive rivalry will not be tolerated. You will be banished from Tradetown for breaking its neutrality laws. Understood? Very good, this enquiry is now concluded.”
Brun and Goll approached the Administrator as the meeting was breaking up. Brun spoke:
"Let us assure you that breaking the peace in Tradetown is the furthest thing from our minds. This is a place where we are safe to transact our business and we would never do anything to jeopardise that.” The Administrator merely nodded his head in acknowledgement.
The group huddled together outside the citadel and began discussing what had just happened. Sue, meanwhile, followed Faylinn and her colleague but was spotted, so found out nothing of importance. The rest decided to go to Raska’s warehouse to see if there was anything worth appropriating. He may have been an associate, but they weren’t above taking advantage of his death.
The warehouse appeared to be in tact but the door was locked. Unfortunately it was the only way in. They tried the lock but it was magically protected. Goll attempted to dispel the trap but failed. What to do next? However, as they debated this question the magic seemed to disappear of its own accord and Tyrran was able to pick the lock. They hurriedly went inside and made an inventory of the contents. 5,000GP’s worth of saleable goods. Not bad. They again organised transport to shift the merchandise to their warehouse.
The next day they returned to camp and set off south with both ships.
3. Let’s Join the Library
The flight south was without incident and they soon found a suitable landing site in the swamp. Leaving the ships safe they followed the map making their way carefully through the mist and muddy pathways. The party consisted of the same six as before plus Wendi the Mage and Koda the Beastman As they progressed the ground became firmer and they came upon the ruins for which they had been searching. The party surveyed the scene, the last remnants of a long dead civilisation. Huge pillars lay around, as if discarded by some giant child called to tea in the middle of play. The remains of walls jutted from the ground. Broken statues littered the area and moss and creepers covered everything. The swamp was gradually reclaiming its own. As the party moved forward Tyrran noticed something moving through the ruins to their left. All turned and saw a light dancing in the near distance.
"A Wil o’ the Wisp” said Tyrran. "I hear they can give you a nasty shock. Best keep out of the way.”
With that he ran off into some undergrowth. The light seemed to follow Sue who was on point as usual. As she tried to rejoin Gorlab the glowing orb bumped her and sent her to the floor. The others were wary, not knowing what to expect. Maybe they should try and hit it with weapons that weren’t metal. Goll was the first to take the initiative by firing a Berun’s bolt at the thing, but it merely absorbed the attack.
The Wil o’ the Wisp was fast, very fast and it was all the party could do to keep up with it. They aimed blows at it and missed as many times, but occasionally they struck home. Gul’s gorgonite blade was the only non-metal sword and the others searched frantically for any tree branches heavy enough to act as clubs. Zaen and Goll prepared to attack with staffs. Goll broke his on the ground after a wild stroke missed the elusive target. He took up his trident but missed with that as well. Tyrran and Brun succeeded in finding makeshift clubs and eventually everyone joined in the melee. Soon they realised there was no shock from the globe as it hit. Gorlab used his sword but was brought down. Brun rushed to his aid as the others continued to attack. They were wishing they had avoided this accursed ball but in the end Goll managed to destroy it. Koda proudly showed his wounds to Gul.
"See, General, I have shed blood in your service.”
"Well done, Koda.”
"He should be” joked Tyrran.
Brun ministered to Sue and soon the party were back in business. The pseudo dragon then flew to where the Wil o’ the Wisp had first appeared. To their surprise, eight black scaled Lizard men appeared and advanced. Without hesitation Zaen aimed a fireball at them, killing four. Goll and Gul drew their sword and ran at the remaining creatures. Goll downed two of them and Gul saw off the remainder.
Encountering no more delays they came to a staircase which led into a corridor. Two fallen blocks of stone blocked the entrance. The party rested and considered the way forward. After sometime Tyrran said:
"General Gul, didn’t you say that you had a ‘Potion of Earth Elemental Form’ in your back pack?”
"Well remembered” Gul replied. "What of it?”
"I’m sure if you drank it now, you could easily shift those stone blocks.”
"Brilliant, I wish I’d thought of that!”
So Gul stripped off and handed his clothes and armour to Koda, drank the potion, writhed about a bit and turned into a rubbish heap. He shambled up to the offending building materials and pushed them aside as though they were matchsticks. He and Tyrran then led the way down the staircase and along the corridor. They had travelled a little further when they heard a sound as of metal rubbing against metal. In the dim light cast by Brun’s lantern they could make out a scythe jaw moving towards them, its teeth opening and closing threateningly. Gul attempted to hit with his mighty, new fists but missed. The effects of the potion then wore off and he hurried back to Koda before the scythe jaw could get him. Putting his clothes and armour back on he saw Goll fire ’Berun’s Bullet’ at the contraption. It had no effect. Then Zaen and Wendi projected magic missiles at it to better effect. It went down to the last of Wendi’s three shots.
At the end of the corridor they came to five doors, two on each side and one at the end of the corridor. There was incomprehensible writing above each. Gul donned his magic goggles and read: "The four doors on the side of the corridor are libraries one to four. The other door is an office or reading room.” They carefully tried each door. The first four were unlocked and opened into identical rooms 20’ x 30’ containing shelves of books. "Fancy that,” said Gorlab; "a library full of books.”
"I bet they’re worth an electrum piece or two.” Zaen put in.
Attention was then turned to the last door, which turned out to be locked. Tyrran listened carefully. "I think I hear something, something slithery.” He picked the lock and cautiously pushed the door open. The party looked in and scanned the room. "There, in the rafters.” Tyrran pointed to the ceiling. There, wrapped around a beam was a snake like beast. It uncoiled partially and hung down. "A Medusa, avert your gaze.” Gorlab shouted a warning. Brun blessed the party at once and Gorlab cast ‘Haste’. Tyrran became four as he cast ‘Mirror Image’ on himself. The rest rained a hail of arrows and poisoned darts at the Medusa. It fought back but did little damage. There was no way to attack the creature with swords as it was too high. Brun tried leaping up to attack it using his magic boots, but he failed to make an impact. Gorlab became frustrated and dared to gaze at the Medusa, giving it the Evil Eye from his gem. A ray projected from the jewel and the Medusa disappeared in a blinding flash. All that remained was a smoking beam and a flurry of ash falling to the floor. Regrettably, a magic bow had also gone up in smoke. Some days are like that, aren’t they?
A search of the room revealed a secret door into a small, 10’ x 15’ room containing the obligatory chest. Tyrran examined it (he’s working well this adventure, isn’t he), found it to be protected and disarmed the poison gas trap. Inside were six books with magical properties. Each provided a way to improve the body or mind of the reader. The books were divided amongst the senior members of the party. Zaen found himself getting stronger as he read. Goll gained more insight into the world and Gul’s thought processes became more logical. Brun Casta stood a little taller than before and impressed those around him. Gorlab began to juggle with four stones he had found on the floor. Finally Tyrran clutched his chest, as if in pain, but realised his body was getting more resistant to poison, magic and other such invasive agencies. With everywhere cleared of monsters or treasures, Gul summoned the ships and the slaves carried all the books onto them.
"We could open a library" said Brun "instead of selling these books."
On their return to Tradetown that's exactly what they did. More of that later.