The Quest for XP
Session 8, The Hill
One of our less successful sessions, at least in terms of play time, we nevertheless had a good time. We had originally been scheduled to play on the 9th, but a bad bout of influenza pushed the date back. Still, Belgarath's player provided a gourmet dinner of anise salad with pine nuts and lemon vinaigrette dressing, followed by lightly sauteed vegetables in olive oil over pasta. Then it was time to go shopping in Kelvin and Specularum! Gee, how exciting.
Belgarath was also desperate for every point of XP he could scrounge, trying to use his Animal Husbandry business income, and the sale of everything that wasn’t nailed down (including stuff that others had found that magically appeared on his character sheet), in an attempt to make Level 2 before we started playing (he was about 300 XP short from the last session).
In the end, we played for a grand total of about 20 minutes (okay, I’m exaggerating, but not by much), with most of our time being taken up by housekeeping activities. Oh, and I drank far too much mead.
With all the disparate party members present around the table in the Lion’s Den with the carved map, plans were laid. Expenses were mounting, and a significant amount of treasure hadn’t been found in some time…
The party had lost the services of their Mercenaries, with Ivana balking at the mounting injuries crippling her guardsmen, as well as talk of the party heading into a dungeon below the Ruined Monastery. With all of their Henchmen, they were still a sizeable contingent, but would still need to be more cautious.
“I have some other items I’d like to sell…” Belgarath began, “…some scrolls, two potions, a shield…”
“Wait, how do you have those?” Kalasandr interjected, “We received those when we made a bargain with the witches, and you weren’t even there! You were…husbanding animals, or something.”
Belgarath looked non-plussed, “Well, no one else was using them, as they didn’t even come with us last time, and-”
“But how did you get that stuff?” Kalasandr asked again, looking increasingly perplexed.
“I do not think we should sell them. They make us more powerful!” It was one of the first times Endithas had ventured an opinion, mostly by dint of seldom being present. He seemed to constantly be complaining of pain in his back and legs. Maybe it was because he was so old? Or at least he looked that way to his far younger companions.
“One of those scrolls is Clerical,” Caasi began, “…actually, two of them, if you include the one Kalasandr found in that ivory case…”
“Yesss! The ivory scroll-case! We could sell that, too!” said Belgarath, an avaricious gleam in his eye.
“Why are you so desperate?” Kane asked. The question was ironic, considering the taciturn elf had spoken of nothing but finding an animal “companion” (whatever that meant) for the first while the others had known him.
“I am… on the precipice!” stated Belgarath with all the gravitas he could muster. The small amount of foam speckling his lips detracted from his desired effect.
Kalasandr looked around at the others, hoping someone else understood what the mage was talking about, “Of…what? Madness?”
“POWER!” Belgarath shouted, far too loudly. Several of the other patrons in the sleepy tavern looked up from their ale. Chagrined, he spoke more softly, “I mean, power. I feel I am on the verge of a breakthrough.”
“Then… why do you need money? And by selling our stuff, no less?” Caasi asked, genuinely confused.
The mage looked about at his companions, “You wouldn’t understand!” he said simply, before falling into a brooding, sulking silence.
“Right!” said Kalasandr, trying to get their deliberations back on track, “I think we should head back to Kelvin, try and pick up some more help, maybe some more military oil to replace what we’ve used.” Several other party members nodded their approval. “And if we need money…” he continued, “…there’s always that necro-whatsit dagger we found. Nobody has been using it. Maybe we can sell that?”
15th of Klarmont to the 14th of Felmont, AC 999
Characters: Belgarath (Mage 2), Mearl (Belgarath’s very loyal Henchman), Argus and Cerberus (Belgarath’s wardogs), Caasi (Cleric 2), Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman and body servant), Endithas Wolfram (Fighter 2), Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr (Thief 4), Solla (Kalasandr’s Henchman), Kane (Elven Ranger 2), 1 wardog and 3 hunting dogs (belonging to Kane), and a partridge in a pear tree.
Mortal Wounds: None
Leveled: Every PC!
Belgarath negotiated the sale to Ivana of the crossbows the party had looted from the Hobgoblin stores, and the gems taken from the profane idol. The sale netted them a small amount of gold, and pushed Belgarath that much closer to 2nd Level. He also informed her that they had found a large amount of supplies, enough for a small army; Ivana was less than pleased that these had been left behind (which may have contributed to her decision to deny them further use of her guardsmen). The party then headed out for Kelvin a day after returning from The Hill.
Spring was giving way to summer, and the fields near Kelvin were a beehive of activity. Upon reaching the city, more military oil was secured (nearly the total supply in the city), and Caasi was again healed at the Church of Karameikos for the usual 500 gp donation. Kalasandr was also busy, commissioning caltrops to be made, and hiring another Henchman (Henchwoman?), with a bright red birthmark on her left cheek, by the name of Solla. The woman appeared to be a veteran warrior, but with no actual adventuring experience.
While in Kelvin, Kalasandr also inquired with his underworld contacts about selling a few vials of centipede poison (illegal in the Grand Duchy) that Belgarath had harvested. Unbelievably, he managed to net nearly 1000 gp for the two vials! (A misread price, max die roll, and inappropriately applying Bargaining lead to the anomaly, but I decided to let it stand; someone really wanted that poison! Now the question is: what for? I'd already decided, but it would likely be a while before the party found out...)
The money from the sale of the poison pushed Belgarath over the edge, and he finally hit 2nd Level. As the party had tried, unsuccessfully, to sell the necromantic dagger they had found in a tomb beside the Ruined Monastery, a decision was made to head to the capital, Specularum. It was nearly a week’s travel, but there was hope of finding a buyer for the magical blade, and allowing Belgarath to visit his master to learn a new spell.
The trip itself was uneventful, but once there a buyer for the dagger couldn’t be found (there was only a small chance for such an expensive item)! However, when Belgarath met his mentor, Teldon, he spoke openly of their attempts to sell the magical blade, and their inability to do so. His master examined the dagger and immediately offered the princely sum of 12,000 gp! Belgarath nearly fainted, but upon regaining his composure, began to haggle with his master, eager to milk all he could from the transaction. Teldon put his young student firmly in his place, and informed Belgarath that, while the dagger was probably worth more than he was offering, there would be no other buyer, and Teldon could not offer more. Belgarath the Miser finally relented, and at the end of the week left his master’s tower with more gold than he had ever seen in his life, and the new spell Unseen Servant added to his repertoire (I had previously created Belgarath's master, including his spellbook, and anything Belgarath was taught would come from this).
The party rejoiced at their windfall, and a flurry of buying ensued. Out of character, every PC also levelled, and a considerable amount of time was spent rolling for new hp, and updating character sheets to reflect the various benefits that 2nd Level would bring (save Kalasandr, who hit 4th!). Finishing with the administration, the group headed back to Guido’s Fort.
Upon arriving at the fort, rumours reached the PCs ears of a rival party crossing the River to The Hill. They were incensed! How dare anyone else loot their treasure?! Kane immediately headed to the Lion’s Den to locate The Old Timer, and began plying the man with drinks to find out what he knew of the interlopers. It turned out a rival party, some 5 strong plus wolves, had crossed the River days before, and had not been heard from since. The party immediately made ready to depart, intent on putting a stop to whatever shenanigans these “outsiders” were up to in “their” dungeon.
After spending a couple hours to move their large group across the water, the party made an uneventful hike to the far side of The Hill. All was eerily quiet as they approached the Ruined Monastery. Strangely, no Goblin sentries stood watch, and the party was able to move to the buildings much less cautiously than before. Once inside, they made their way through corridors, courtyard, and secret door to the guardroom. Here again, they found it unoccupied and silent. Carefully avoiding their own poison, they passed through the door and descended the stairs into the dungeon below…
The stairs ran arrow-straight, traveling more than 60 feet as they ran far beneath the earth. At the bottom they ended at a T-junction, the corridor heading left and right. The party headed left, and in a few dozen feet reached another T-junction. At Caasi’s insistence they again headed left, and a few feet farther on the corridor turned right. This passage ended at door, with another passage branching to the right. The sound of roiling liquid was heard behind the door, and Kalasandr attempted to surreptitiously peek into the room, but was spotted by a pair of Goblins. The humanoids attacked the party with a shriek, and were quickly cut down. The room they had occupied was a gruesome sight, with various implements of torture scattered about the room, ready to be used. Along the far wall were four doors, each containing a barred window.
Endithas and Kane guarded the corridor while the others searched the room. Mercifully, the cells were all empty, though that didn’t explain what the Goblins had been preparing for. The humanoids’ bodies were hidden in the cells after keys to them were found hanging on the wall. Then the party headed back out into the corridor, taking the last branch they had passed.
This blank-walled corridor soon turned left, ran for fifty feet or so, turned left again, then right. Along this final stretch of hall a door was discovered a short distance before the passage ended in a second door. With no sound from either door, the room at the end of the corridor was entered first, revealing a well appointed study. The room was quickly looted of valuables, and the desk examined by Kalasandr. One of the drawers was locked, but the thief easily managed to pick it, and then opened it without checking for traps.
That choice proved nearly fatal, as a hidden needle sprung from the handle, pricking the thief with poison. Kalasandr became dizzy and felt his heart race, but after a few moments the sensation passed (made his Save vs. Poison!). Checking the previously locked drawer he discovered a bag of tiger-eye gems and a clerical scroll of Cure Light Wounds that was given to Caasi.
Meanwhile, out in the corridor, Kane and Endithas stood watch. Abruptly, a lone Hobgoblin came strolling around the corner, lantern in hand. The humanoid barely had a chance to register surprise before an arrow sprouted from its throat, and it collapsed to the floor, Endithas catching it before its lantern could smash.
The remainder of the party left the study behind, and attempted to open the only other door in the hall. It was locked, but was soon opened by Kalasandr’s deft touch. The room behind the door seemed as out of place as the study had, and it was appointed as a sumptuous sitting room, plush chairs and crystal wine glasses completing the picture. This room, too, was looted of its obvious valuables, and the dead Hobgoblin was left sitting in one of the chairs.
The party then headed back nearly to the stairs to the surface, and turned down the other branch. Kalasandr and Kane almost immediately heard noise coming from up the hall: rhythmic clanging sounds of metal on metal. Further on, a dull glow suffused the hall, emanating from a side-passage on the left. Kalasandr snuck forward, and glanced into the dimly lit passage. He found himself looking into a forge room, Hobgoblins toiling under the whip of a Bugbear taskmaster. The source of the pounding was a balding dwarven smith, a ball and chain making it clear he laboured under duress.
The thief moved back to the others, and it was decided that he would scout farther down the corridor to make certain there were no other threats nearby. Moving stealthily, Kalasandr slipped past the doorway and on down the corridor. He quickly mapped out a hundred feet or so of nearby passage, noting, in particular, a pair of ornate double doors that hopefully led to the The Hobgoblin King. He then doubled-back to rejoin the party.
As they huddled in the corridor, just out of sight of the forge, an argument broke out about how best to attack the humanoids; Belgarath simply wanted to hurl burning oil into the room, while Endithas wanted burning oil separating the party from their enemies. Everyone agreed they needed to block the door on the opposite side of the forge room with oil (though why Belgarath couldn’t cast Hold Portal once the battle had begun was anyone’s guess; the mage had a bad habit of ending adventures with his spell(s) uncast). Eventually, a Rube Goldberg-style plan was concocted, which involved Belgarath’s Unseen Servant carrying military oil, and a complex order of battle. Amazingly, the plan went off without a hitch, as the party attacked the humanoids by surprise.
The fight that followed was as quick as it was brutal, with the unarmoured Hobgoblins dropping to the party’s attacks. The dwarf turned on his captors, and managed to wound both the Bugbear and a Hobgoblin, before being grievously wounded in turn. Once the last of the opposition was defeated, the bodies were unceremoniously dumped into the forges, and Gareth the balding dwarven smith was offered both his freedom, and a chance to accompany the party to the surface, which he gladly agreed to. Kane grabbed the Bugbear’s spiked club in the hope that it was enchanted (only Cassi could cast Detect Magic, and she had already used her slot for the day keeping the dwarf alive). Gareth was asked if he had seen much of the rest of the dungeon, but, strangely, the questioning went no further. It was nevertheless clear that the humanoids were forging weapons and armour in quantities sufficient to outfit an army.
With 2am fast approaching in the real world, it was decided that the party would withdraw, and they made the trip back to Guido’s Fort without incident. Back at the fort, a hole was dug in the dirt floor of Belgarath’s cottage, and a locked chest was buried containing several magic items, with the understanding that any of the companions could access them.