Maze Rats 4 – The Staff of True Sight – Part 1

Season 4 of the Play by Poll Maze Rats Game following Phoebe Hicks and her friends.
Season 1 (with explanation)
Season 2
Season 3
Maze Rats: The Rules System

***Season 4, part 1 – A New Face***

After their adventure on the Isle of Blight, Phoebe has secured her gang a job to guard trader caravans on their way south to the civilized parts, and back up to Woodbridge. An easy job that needs to be done, because the presence of the guards discourages robbers. It is boring, but it pays the bills. Harmony stays back in the Cunning Cock, studying the book.

Reinhold is not part of the job. He is back in Woodbridge. One day, after looking for a suitable job — one that is not too strenuous but pays well — he returns home to find a beautiful young maiden waiting in front of the house where he rents a room. She is just turning away from a shrugging passer-by and asks him next: “Excuse me, sir, do you happen to know where I can find one Reinhold Middlebay?”

“Middleway!” he corrects her automatically.

  • Keep it anonymous, sorry, can’t help
  • Keep it anonymous, but you know the guy
  • Tell her she has found the right man

***Season 4, part 2 – A New Job***

“Well, you found him. Reinhold Middleway, that’s me.”
“Oh thank the GODS!” she exclaims, then sighs and grabs his hand. “You are the hero who saved the girls from the goblin dungeons. You MUST help me.”

Reinhold is a bit conflicted about accepting the praise for that all alone, given that they went there as a group of nine, and he lost first Mortimer to the grim reaper and then all his crew to Phoebe, but before he can properly react she holds on to his arm for support and pleads:

“There is good folk in danger out in the goblin lands. A village of peaceful swamp farmers, afflicted with a terrible disease. I MUST get fresh medicine to them, or their young ones will DIE! But I need PROTECTION. I need a MAN to keep the medicine safe. I need YOU.”

She is agitated, but her big, deep, brown eyes look up to him like to a saint, full of trust.

Medicine, swamp farmers, young ones. Reinhold knows a well-paying job when he sees one, and this ain’t it. The woman seems to be really into him, though, she can’t keep her hands off his arm. And he has experience with goblins, has even led some of them into battle once.

  • – Agree to help her
  • Ask for details
  • – Ask for compensation

***Season 4, part 3 – Too Many Ears ***

As Reinhold asks for details, she becomes nervous and looks around. “I will tell you ALL, but not HERE. Too many ears! And it is late. Meet me at the gallow’s road, in ONE hour. I have a white carriage there, with the medicine loaded and ready. We should move quickly, as LIFES are at stake!”
With that, she quickly slips away.
“My room is right…” he begins, but hesitates to grab the lithe little woman with his pranks, for fear of sending the wrong message.
“Thank you, for EVERYTHING!” she pipes, then she is gone, chirping happily, as if a heavy burden of woe had been lifted from her shoulders.

“Crazy….” Reinhold murmurs.
The gallow’s road is close to the Wood Gate, perfect to start a journey into the goblin lands.
This could be a call for a hero, just like the woman … what was her name again?

It could also be his chance to get his macho card back, because his image as a ladies’ man has taken some serious damage with all his playing sidekick to Phoebe instead of leading his own crew.

If it is a chance to hit on the lady, he’d better go alone.
If it is a chance to be a hero, he might need support.
But what if she is actually dirt-poor and chaste and it will be a big net loss?
Or if she is just plain crazy and there is no white carriage?

  • Meet her in an hour
  • Forget about her, go to bed
  • Go and tell Constanc

***Season 4, part 4 – One, Two, Three***

Reinhold thinks it through, turns around and goes to tell Constance. His young apprentice is shocked by the idea of going into the goblin lands like that. “Just a medicine trader and one bodyguard?”
“She is not a trader, I think. It sounds like she’s giving the medicine to those farmers for free.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. I will go and tell Harmony.”

Constance has met Harmony that day, so she finds her quickly. It is clear to both women that they can’t let Reinhold meet the stranger alone. They feel in their hearts she’s trouble. But they also want to know what’s up with her, so staying away and never knowing the truth is no option. They have to make a plan:

  • Go to the carriage a trois
  • Watch Reinhold from the shadows
  • Spy on the carriage, no approach

***Season 4, part 5 – Goblin Kids***

Gallows Road is still populated at the prearranged time, and there are three carriages, but only one of them is white.

Reinhold, Constance, and Harmony walk up to the vehicle, which looks like a painted wooden box, with four sturdy wheels and a white tarpaulin to hide the goods. Not at all like the trader carts or a noble’s carriage. Two horses are yoked to it, one brown and one white-ish.

As the small group walks up to the carriage, the woman jumps off the back of it and cleans her hands on an apron. Then she looks up and sees them.
“Reinhold! I am so HAPPY! And are these your friends? Will they come WITH US?”
Harmony stops her. “First, your story. Where are you going? Why you? Why Reinhold? And who are you?”

The woman is stunned by those questions, but explains with big, theatrical gestures: East of the goblin village Toothtip, known to all, there are the old elven ruins, and past those the goblin road passes through swampland. A bit north of that path there is a village, and the inhabitants are struck by a disease. Why she? Because someone HAS to! Why Reinhold? Because he is a HERO! Who is she? Arine Westergren, a widow. Her husband Leopold has died two years ago.

Constance is suspicious. “You sound like you will give the medicine away for free. Why?”
“Yes. No-one else will help. Someone MUST. I must.”
“How come nobody knows of the plight of this village?”
She hesitates, then confesses: “They are goblins. It is a goblin village. Nobody cares what happens to goblins. They will DIE alone. But YOU care. You HELP. Like you helped those GIRLS.”

In truth, Reinhold has never helped for free. There was always a reward.

  • Agree to help (all three)
  • Agree to help (Reinhold)
  • Say No
  • Demand pay
  • Something else (comment)

***Season 4, part 6 – Setting out***

“We are all coming,” says Harmony, and Arine is overjoyed. “All three of you! You are TRULY noble and good!”
Then she starts bustling and getting the carriage ready. “We must start now, before they close the gate for the night! Otherwise we will lose another 10 precious hours before help can find the poor lads and lasses!”
Constance gasps. “You mean to enter the Darkwood in the evening?”
“Of course!” says Arine. “We must spend at least one night in it anyway, so why not spend it on the road to Toothtip, which is well trafficked?”
That is a surprisingly practical plan. It is true that this part of the way, which used to be just a path, has morphed into a real overland road thanks to traders moving back and forth on a weekly basis.

Arine motions Reinhold and Harmony onto the front seat and invites Constance into the back with her, to find a snug place between piles and towers of wooden boxes, all painted white, like the carriage itself.

“Let us move. It is only half an hour before they will close the gate.”
Half an hour is easy time to get out yet. But the adventurers do not have all their gear with them at this point, just their armor and weapons, which they took out of habit. They make a detour to fetch Reinhold’s and Constance’s gear and leave Woodbridge to go past the Cunning Cock for Harmony’s stuff. However, they also have a secret stash for the elven weapons.

  • Make a detour to fetch the elven weapons
  • Leave them safely hidden and go without

***Season 4, part 7 – Boring Journey***

The three heroes leave the elven weapons in the stash and board the carriage with their safe, human weapons. Soon the carriage rumbles past the Olde Mine and turns right onto the road to the Goblin village, just as the sun sets.
A group of adventurers is just returning from the woods and waves at them. They look tired and dirty and they don’t carry any visible loot, but they seem happy enough to get back into the warm tavern.
The high trees of the Darkwood swallow the small group, and Arine begins to sing, in a quiet, but very harmonious voice, a soothing, well-known lullaby.

Reinhold remembers the song well – his first apprentice, Alma, was an actress by profession and used to sing it to keep her voice in training. It makes him wistful and drawn into his own memories, but Harmony is with him to stay focused. She loves being back in the Darkwood.
“How long until we reach the Goblin village?” asks Constance, who has never been there.
“Only about four hours on foot … so just two with this fine carriage!” says Harmony, as the horses trot along.
Reinhold is sad, Harmony enjoys the trees … Constance gets bored.

What can she do, hemmed in between the medicine boxes?

  • – Speak with Arine
  • – Take a nap
  • – Inspect the cargo
  • – Practice Elvish

***Season 4, part 8 – Not Nice***

Constance looks at the unmarked white boxes and picks one at random. It is not super-light, but not as heavy as expected. The box is nailed shut. She would need something to pry it open.
Arine stops singing and watches her inspecting the box. “What are you doing?”
“Just taking a look at the cargo.”
“What for?”
“Uh… just so. Shouldn’t I?”
“Well…” Arine leans forward. “I think it is not nice to grab things that are not for you.”
The “not nice” sounds like a knife sliding out of a sheath.

Constance is startled, because Arine’s voice has changed, from a melodious soprano to a more level, sharper voice. Less like a person Constance wants to be in a carriage with.
“What’s going on?” she asks.
“Nothing,” the woman shrugs. “Go ahead, but be careful not to break anything.” Then she adds: “Wait, I will give you a tool to open the box without making a mess.”
Arine crawls to the back of the carriage and rummages around in the farthest corner. She picks up humming her melody again.

  • – Wait for the tool
  • – Break the box
  • – Prepare to fend off an attack
  • – Kick Arine off the carriage
  • – Something else (comment)

***Season 4, part 9 – Jump***

Arine rummages and rummages, and shifts boxes, all the while humming her melody. Constance expected her to turn around and attack her, but that does not materialize.
Soon Constance frowns and asks: “Do you need help?”
“A moment!” says Arine.
Constance shakes her head. This makes no sense. She leans forward to stand up, when the carriage suddenly slows.
“Oh thank the gods,” says Arine, and jumps out of the carriage!
Harmony and Reinhold have slowed and stop because a tree has fallen and blocks half the road. It is not like a roadblock, more like a naturally fallen tree: There is enough room to carefully navigate around it.

Constance looks out back and sees Arine disappearing between the trees.
“Arine has jumped off!” shouts Constance, a bit confused about this development.

  • – Investigate the fallen tree
  • – Drive around it
  • – Go look for Arine
  • – Take cover inside
  • Jump off and hide

***Season 4, part 10 – Ambush***

Reinhold and Harmony jump off the carriage and take cover, when the first arrows come. Not too shabby: Eight shots pierce wood and dirt, but one even finds its mark: Harmony suffers a hit to the leg. Constance blindly shoots in the general direction of where some arrows came from. Then they all duck into the underbrush.

Judging by the arrows, three or more ambushers are on the south side of the trail. One or more are on the north side with Harmony, Constance, and Reinhold.

“What the hell?” asks Constance, reloading her crossbow.

Reinhold makes a long face. “Sorry! That’s my fault.”

“How is it your fault?”

Harmony breaks off the arrow and leaves the tip in her thigh. “He is trying to say that this was supposed to be only an ambush for him, and it is his fault that you and me are now with him.”

Reinhold gives a grim nod and nocks an arrow on Alma’s longbow.

  • – Flee westwards
  • – Go east
  • Hunt the northern ambushers
  • – Wait for the southern ambushers
  • – Split up: Hunt AND wait

***Season 4, part 11 – Hunter and Hunted***

“We have to get whoever is on our side of the trail,” says Reinhold.

“Absolutely,” Harmony agrees.

She grits her teeth against the pain in her leg and all three of them spread out to sneak closer to the area where they think the arrows from the north came from.

They take their time and are careful, but it takes too long: They have not seen any sign of their opponent, who is smart enough to stay low, when the others from the south start to come out of the woodwork.
They can be heard discussing in goblin what to do. Harmony signals what she can understand: They want to spread out – just like they themselves did – and surround their prey. She also signals pointy ears and tusks: She thinks they are goblins. Still, they have to find their foe, so the team continues their search, albeit quicker.

Finally the goblin notices Constance, and draws back his bow. Harmony notices the goblin, and how close Constance is to getting shot. She must decide in a split second:

  • – Shout a warning
  • Shoot an arrow
  • – Cast Vine Circle
  • – Cast Spawning Rot

***Season 4, part 12 – War of Arrows***

Lightning-quick, Harmony sends an arrow on its way. The projectile hits the goblin in the moment he releases, costs him 2 HP and knocks him back. His own arrow goes wide and does not even come close to hitting Constance. Harmony and Constance jump up and race to the goblin. Reinhold hears the commotion and turns in his direction.

Initiative: The goblin gains initiative.
He has no intention of getting attacked by three angry humans, so he turns and bails. Reinhold and Harmony stand up and send arrows after him. Reinhold hits a tree. Harmony hits the goblin in the back, but he keeps running and disappears in the underbrush.

“I don’t think we will see that one again soon.”

From the south, the other goblins are rustling in the bushes.

  • – Flee
  • – Break through
  • – Take their flank
  • Call out to them

***Season 4, part 13 – Nothing Personal***

Reinhold wants to roll the enemy up from left to right, but Harmony crouches behind a tree to call out to the goblins. Constance stays close to her to protect the Elf. Reinhold moves farther to the left and drops behind a tree trunk, just in case talk will not achieve results.

Harmony knows goblin, so she can communicate in the language of the attackers:
“Hey! Let’s talk!”
One of them chuckles. Another one calls back: “Come out and we will talk.”
“I can’t! I am wounded. But you can come.”
That gives them pause.
“Where are your friends?”
“One has run away,” Harmony says, somewhat truthfully.

The goblins have located her, and their speaker rustles in the bushes as he comes closer, betraying his position. But he stays down, ready for arrows: “Not Reinhold, has he? In what direction?”
“What is your quarrel with Reinhold?”

During the talk, while the speaker draws attention, his comrades try to get into positions at Harmony’s flank, so they can shoot at her from the sides. But Constance has seen one, while Reinhold has seen two. There are not three, but four goblins from the south.

“We have no quarrel with Reinhold. This is nothing personal.”
“Money?”
He chuckles again, and kneels down to aim in her direction: “Aye, good money. And it would be already ours, if it were not for you girls messing up our plan. I guess if I offer you part of the blood money it will not tempt you.”

  • – Attack
  • – Ask how much
  • Ask who pays
  • – Something else (comment)

***Season 4, part 14 – Draw***

The goblins laugh at the question. “What about you shoot Reinhold yourself and we will tell you! Otherwise this is confidential! A pro cannot give up a client.”

Harmony asks for a hint at least, but the goblin does not answer. He signals to his cronies to surround her.
At this point, the right flank goblin notices Reinhold.
“Reinhold!” he shouts, then turns to shoot.
That gives Reinhold enough warning so he can shoot first, but it also alerts the others about his position.
Reinhold scores a critical hit, and the goblin goes down, clearly dead.
The second one and the leader rush him, while the left flank one tries to pin down Harmony.
Harmony has to duck as arrows whistle past her.
But Constance looses a shaft at the guy who shoots at Harmony.
She hits and wounds him.Reinhold misses with his first shot at the new opponents, and they miss with their shots.

The wounded goblin misses Constance, and Harmony misses him.
Reinhold hits the leader, but it is only a scratch.
They both miss.

Finally everyone has good cover again, and time to think this through.

So far, the goblins have one dead, two wounded, and one who ran away, leaving only one healthy fighter. Of the elf/human side, only Harmony is wounded, and that only lightly.

The goblin leader has an idea: “Come on, humans. Let’s call this a draw. We all agree to disengage, we go back south and east, you go north and west, and we meet again fresh next time. Cool?”

  • – Cool.
  • – Say cool, but hit em when they move
  • No. Let’s settle this now.
  • – Other idea?

***Season 4, part 14 – Cut Short***

Reinhold shoots at him. He misses, of course, but the fight rages on.
The wounded goblin has the problem of fighting two opponents. After a couple of arrows back and forth, he goes all in and shoots Harmony a second time. She loses two more HP.
However, Constance gets him in her sights and ends him with a well-placed shot. The second goblin goes down for good.

Reinhold is in the same situation, one against two. Shooting at each other from cover and concealment, it takes a while until the leader manages a hit: Reinhold suffers a scratch. Reinhold decides to change tactics and run. His opponents follow and shoot. They miss, but he circles a tree and returns a snap shot:

Strike! The grunt gets hit and is down.
Now the leader is alone.
“Fuck you!” he shouts, and runs.

Constance wants to look after Harmony, but Harmony sends her off: “Help Reinhold!”
Reinhold runs after the goblin leader, and Constance follows them.
The goblin tries to copy Reinhold’s earlier move and return fire from a tree.
But he misses.
Reinhold shoots back and grazes the goblin leader.
The goblin drops everything, including weapons, and runs like his life depended on it.
Both Reinhold and Constance line up one last shot.
They miss.
He is gone.

Cursing, Reinhold returns with Constance to find that Harmony has already carefully removed the arrow. They lay out the three dead goblins and inspect their belongings and what the leader dropped. 

Constance muses: “Three lifes cut short.”

“Could have been us just as easily,” says Harmony.

Four bows, a number of arrows,
four blades,
and 12 gold pieces.

What now?

  • – Return home
  • – Try to track down the goblin
  • Look for Arine Westergren

***Season 4, part 15 – Disparu***

The three adventurers quickly find the spot where Arine entered the wood and start following her. Sadly, they lose her tracks quickly.

“Darn! Who knew that a city girl can run through the woods without breaking off twigs every two feet?”

After a while they have to give up. She is gone.

The group takes the carriage and turns it around to return to Woodbridge.

Will they

  • – Stay at the Cunning Cock
  • – Go back into the City
  • Seek Phoebe
  • – Complain to the Authorities

***Season 4, part 16 – Strangers in the Night***

The adventurers turn south and follow the King’s Road to find the caravan and Phoebe. But they do not get far before the horses get tired and they have to rest. Reinhold picks a suitable place off the road and stops, freeing the horses from their yoke and hobbling them so they can eat but not run away.

“Do you think she will be a target too?”

“If it is connected with our adventure, yes. If it is from something out of Reinhold’s personal past, then no.”

“I have done nothing that would warrant sending five assassins after me – six if we count Arine. That is expensive!”
“So it must be connected either to our attack on the tree dungeon or to our Island adventure.”

During the night, in Constance’s guard shift, a group on horseback passes by on the dark road, from North to South.

They do not carry lights, so they go slow.

  • — Wake the others and contact the riders
  • — Keep still
  • Sneak closer to take a better look

***Season 4, part 17 – Night Riders***

Constance sneaks closer to see the night-riders. It turns out they are goblins. No less than ten of them. They are not too quick, because the animals can’t see too well in the starlight, but qick enough to have passed her by before she has properly counted them. They go on along the road. She can only see they all carry bows.

Assassins? Or a harmless hunting party?

Constance will not be able to follow them on horseback. Waking the others will take some time, and then they will be out of sight.

  • Let them ride
  • — Wake the others
  • — Use spell Wearying Obsidian

***Season 4, part 18 – Cliffside***

Constance watches them ride off and returns to the others. After sunup, they press on and follow the goblin riders who left a pretty clear track – but there comes a point where they left the road and angled west into the Wight Hills.

Nothing is in there, it is wild and unused land. Maybe they are really hunters who look for prey among the scrubs there.

Not much farther south there is a spot where the road passes under a rock face – this would be an ideal spot for an ambush. But nothing can be seen, neither the horses nor any archers on the cliff or elsewhere.

  • — Ride on
  • — Follow the tracks
  • — Wait and watch
  • — inspect possible hiding places

***Season 4, part 19 – Snipers’ Nest***

The adventurers bind the horses to a tree and come at the cliff from the western side.

They sneak closer carefully, expecting superior numbers. And indeed, there they are: Five archers resting a couple of feet behind the cliff, and two more lying at the brink, looking south. That’s seven, and they are waiting for someone coming up towards Woodbridge.

“I am sure there were more of them,” says Constance.

“Maybe some are guarding the horses?”

They look around, in every direction but fail to notice any more goblins, or their horses.

“The others may have rode on, or they are on the other side of the road. But one thing is clear: They are not hunters.”

  • — Attack them
  • — Use magic
  • — Speak to them 
  • Sneak past them to the south

***Season 4, part 20 – Reunion***

Harmony, Constance, and Reinhold keep their distance from the goblins and circle wide around them, rejoin the road and keep going south. They walk for two hours, until they meet a number of wagons full of trading goods — and protected by Phoebe and the others.

The adventurers exchange news. Phoebe, Ursula, Oswald, and Fernsby have not encountered anything interesting. They and five other hired hands just ride alongside the traders all the time.

News of the ambush and the archer battle worry them — conversely, they are happy about the information about the archers on top of the cliff. Phoebe is a former highway-woman, so she can guess the position of the archers and the missing people, based on how she would hold up such a caravan …. or do they even want to mess with the traders?

“Chances are these ambushers have the same job, only about us instead of Reinhold. This is an opportunity. We must take at least one of them alive.”

“They are ten or so – we are seven.”

“Thirteen, counting these men-at-arms. We can warn the traders and let them stop before the place of the ambush.”

“So are you thinking about attacking the goblins?”

  • — Attack the goblins
  • Try to kidnap one
  • — Try to get the trade caravan around them
  • — Send the caravan into the ambush
  • — Try to contact the goblins
  • — Something else (comment)

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