Friday, 12 July 2019

THE CRYSTAL SEAS... EPISODE 11: ALL IS LOST

The following content borrows heavily from the 5e update for The Sunless Citadel, available in Tales from the Yawning Portal. There will be spoilers, although the module has been adapted for our Crystal Seas Sandbox. If you intend to play The Sunless Citadel, please look away now!


The second day of their expedition into the sunken citadel had ended in disaster. What began as a running skirmish with a group of goblins ended in a brief but bloody struggle with a blue dragon, Calcryx, resulting in the death of Kuriakos, as well as two recently acquired allies, Erky and Meepo. Captured by goblins, the party were stripped of their weapons and valuables... 
 ...and taken to the dungeon cells


Horace awoke. In truth he had not really been asleep. He had been holding his eyes forcibly shut, waiting for Analicia or Ursula to tell him what to do. But neither had done so, and now he realised it was up to him to make good of whatever fucked up situation they now found themselves in.

He was on the floor of the cell, his hands secured with iron manacles chained to the wall. There was no light, but his dwarven eyes could discern the location of his comrades, Analicia and Ursula, the former breathing softly beside him, the latter motionless on the far side of the room.

"Analicia."

"What?"

"Are you awake?"

They began to debate what to do next, trying to come up with a plan as to how they might talk their way out of the situation. Ursula uttered a pained moan... and began vainly attempting to melt her manacles with firebolts. Perhaps without really considering what my happen, Analicia likewise began to hurl magical bolts of flame toward the recently hideously burned Ursula.

Horace struggled against his own chains. The wrought iron binding him would not bend, but he saw that they had been embedded in the mortar of the masonry... with a powerful enough pull, he might yet break free... but alas, once again, the dwarf proved too weak.

Frustrated by her failed efforts to melt wrought iron with magical fire, Analicia reasoned that her natural dexterity might enable her to somehow wriggle free of the restraints. Both her wrists were shackled in iron clasps, and if she was somehow able to pop her thumbs out of their sockets she might yet be able to slip through...

Ursula continued to flick fire at the irons that bound her. Each time, her face lit u to reveal a mask of utter exhaustion. She was barely able to summon the energy to invoke the simple cantrip.

Then, the unexpected occurred: with an almighty heave, Horace wrenched the chains free from the wall, and found himself liberated at last. He immediately ran to Ursula's aid, having heard the sound of distant doors opening and closing. There was very little he could do, however, being unarmed.

The door swung open. Two athletically built figures entered the room, their faces resembling those of elves, though twisted into an ugly caricature of the elder race, and their skin a deep shade of orangey red.

"Hobgoblins..." said Analicia, to no-one in particular.

Behind them skulked a diminutive, green-skinned figure of the kind they had fought before. It brandished a sling, and waited by the door. The two hobgoblins, armoured in heavy chain mail, strode purposefully towards the newly-liberated dwarf. The slightly taller of the two addressed Horace in common:

"What're yer doing outta yer shackles, short one?"

Horace received a harsh slap to his chops. The creature was wearing an iron gauntlet. Horace winced, but knew he would have to rely on all his powers of persuasion to find a way out of this.

"I wanted to talk to you about the fee for my release."

"Huh, bail money, is it? Last I heard, the shaman took all your gold from you already."

"Not all... we have more... back at our camp..."

The hobgoblin smirked. He was wise to the dwarf's ruse, but keen to see if he could gleam any more information. Oblivious, Horace divulged exactly where their camp was to be found.

"Very good. Maybe I should send Gobbo here along to investigate, yes?"

The guard issued some instructions in the twisted tongue of the goblins, and the greenskin scuttled off into the dungeon.

"Now then, I'm supposed to take you to see the chief! He wants to give you the personal once over before he sends you down to Belak."

The hobgoblin's eyes lingered on Analicia for an uncomfortably long time, before an uncomfortabkle thought appeared to cross his mind.

"Hmm... one... two... three... and just us two..."

Once again, the hobgoblin leader uttered some foul words to his lieutenant, before leaving the room.

So the party were left alone with a solitary hobgoblin, who uttered some foul words at Horace, none of which were recognisable. The creature growled and spat at Horace, perhaps indicating that he should return to his shackles. A barely conscious Ursula decided the time was right for another firebolt... it fizzled out unceremoniously at his shoulders. The angry creature punched her in the face. She passed out immediately.

Once again, Horace was on the receiving end of a slap to the face, prompting Analicia to assist the only way she knew... but bursting into a melodic song, taught to her by Donna Serafina herself. The ancient melody seemed to stir some deeply repressed memory in the hobgoblin, who found himself distracted long enough for Horace to slide the hobbo's longsword from its scabbard undetected...

The hobgoblin was advancing on the elf-maid with a somewhat lascivious gleam in his eye, to which Analicia's response was to once again attempt to slip out of the shackles using her bone-bending contortionist skills. Unfortunately this appeared to her would-be assailant as an almost erotic dance.

"Now!" came Analicia's yell, as she finally slipped her hands free of the manacles. Horace launched the longsword through the air towards Analicia, and she was just able to catch it. The hobbo turned towards Horace in anger, pounding his face with an iron-clad fist, just as Analicia drove the weapon into a gap in his mail, somewhere on his flank. The crippling attack was not enough to take him out, and soon Analicia found herself disarmed by the hobgoblin's swift attack.

Horace scooped up the weapon,  swinging it somewhat wildly at their jailer. Unfamiliar with longswords, his attack was utterly ineffective. The hobgoblin, oblivious, slapped Analicia to the ground, backed up a few steps and produced a longbow from his back. The arrow struck Analicia true, and once again Horace's attacks failed to find their target.

Aware of the swishing of steel through empty air, the hobgoblin turned on his other assailant, narrowly missing Horace with a shot, but giving Analicia ample time to leap atop what had once been Erky's cage and yank the bow from the Hobgoblin's grasp. Pulling the arrow from her own wound, she launched a successful attack against the monster, who was now completely overcome by rage. The powerful beast leapt up to knock Analicia from the cage, yet the elf somehow found it within herself to quell his attack, sending him stumbling to the ground, prone.

Finally, Horace had a gilt-edged opportunity: the dwarf did not waste it, and soon the hobgoblin's head was separated from its shoulders.

There was a moment of incredulity as the pair now realised they might somehow escape, exchanging breathless glances with one another in the dark of the dungeon cell. Then they realised: Ursula remained. It took many swings with the sword to break the rusty irons that bound her, and by the time Analicia had hoisted her comrade over her shoulders, the hobgoblin commander had already returned, accompanied by two smaller goblins armed with shortbows,

"What in the name-"

Not skipping a beat, Horace called upon his miraculous powers of thaumaturgy, raising his voice to a mighty bellow, as a sudden wind whipped around his fine robes:

"BEGONE, FOUL BEINGS! WITNESS THE MIGHT OF THE GOD OF GOBLIN SLAYERS!"

The pathetic greenskins were immediately taken in by the ruse, and fled. The lead hobgoblin was not impressed, and angrily struck out at the dwarven charlatan. Horace evaded the attack, providing enough of a gap for the lightning reflexes of Analicia to kick in: in one swift move, she dropped Ursula to the floor, drew an arrow, and fired it through the hobgoblin captain's eye, killing him instantly.
"Well, that was easier than the other one..."

"Huh. We need to get going... there'll be more goblins, soon enough..."

Analicia assented, though not before looting the corpse. They managed to drag Ursula back through the citadel without triggering off any more alarms or encountering any traps. Outside, dusk had fallen: they could see torches flickering at their campsite.

Zadu helped them carry Ursula up the steps, before hoisting her up himself with the rope hanging down into the ravine. Everything seemed fine: the horses and camel were unharmed, and Bolg was sat at the campfire, calmly practising some prestidigitation. Only when they had all been given water did Zadu speak:

"Where is your leader?"

Their was a pause, it wasn't immediately clear that he was asking after Kuriakos.

"We... we lost him."

"We lost everything."

Zadu shook his head.

"Oroks?"

"I think so... they called themselves goblins," said Horace.

The wizened guide spat into the fire.

"Did you kill them all?"

Horace's eyes fell to the floor in shame.

"We were captured... we were lucky to escape with our lives."

"If they know we are here, we need to move."

Already Zadu was preparing the horses.

"I will take the leader's horse and lead. It is a long journey to Romani, through the Ishmakhs. But we need to get there soon, otherwise it won't be safe. Boy-"

"Bolg. I mean, actually it's Hans-"

"Boy: you take older sister. You two," and he pointed at the two demi-humans, "try to keep up."

They left the improvised tents in place, but extinguished the fire. Bolg and Urusula on Nicemare, Analicia on Cha Bong, Horace on Skyler, the horse that had been meant for Burzum, and Zadu on Knecht, the horse that had once belonged to Kuriakos. Chanel the camel trotted idly behind them.

* * *

14th Sositi

It truly is darkest before the dawn. Even the demi-humans struggled to see their way in the gloaming light, and there were a terrifying few moments as they passed through the low Ishmakh mountains. Bolg struggled in particular, but the boy did well to keep his eyes focused on the faint torchlight emanating from Zadu's hand.

Finally, as the path began to descend, they could make out the sight of distant torches from a sizeable human settlement. The almost-full moon was visible above a vast body of black water, seemingly extending to the horizon. Above them, a panoply of stars shone down nonchalantly, but providing them all with a modicum of comfort. Somehow they had made it to safety.

Barely able to keep their eyes open, the remnants of the party followed Zadu to a small stone building amidst what appeared to be some kind of orchard. It was difficult to make out anything more in the darkness. Inside they found an empty barn with mouldering hay and the strong smell of animal dung: it would make a fine bed for them all.

Analicia doesn't sleep, none of her people do, apparently, but nonetheless something overcome her when she lied down, and she fell into unconsciousness.

Yet both she and Horace heard something just before slipping away: the sound of laughter, akin to that of the quasit demon they had fought before...

TO BE CONTINUED...

View the updated Crystal Seas Campaign Kill Chart!

No comments:

Post a comment