After a quiet night out in the shrubs, the group tried skinning the wolves for their pelts. They succeeded only with one pelt fit for sale, the others were cut to shreds. Although the others did not see why, Reinaldo insisted to dispose of the cadavers in the swamp holes to avoid drawing vultures and predators.
Dirk had healed the wounded mule the past evening, so the group suggested he bent his healing powers toward Colbin. Dirk refused: His strong spell would be wasted on the man, he argued. Better to use a healing salve, because they can be replaced easily. Reinaldo felt it was the other way around, but, well: so it happened. Then Dirk led the group through the swamp towards the barrows, as he knew the way.
Dirk, while leading us, kept nagging: he was always the wrong choice to send, why should he risk life and limb on a thankless task? He confided in the group that he was actually not on the way back to the village when he fell into the pit; he was on the way out, back to the city, ready to leave this place for good. The real profit, he said, was in relic trading. On his way out to leave and never return, he saw the idol and got thinking that there might be objects of power among the tributes, so he went there, and boom, got it on the head, from somewhere.
Song of heroic victory
Reynard and Reinaldo were not itching for a fight with crocodiles, let alone in a swamp. “Crocodiles are tough enemies even on dry ground. Why antagonise them in their favourite environment?” But Grimble the Sayer protested: “If you avoid all thrill, what stories can I tell about your adventures?”
“How about exaggerating? Or even, spinning a yarn from pure imagination?” suggested Reinaldo, but the bard had his pride. “There must be at least some truth to it!”
Finally Reynard reasoned that with a sneak attack, he may actually have a chance. He went to a fitting spot and gave it a sniper shot with his longbow, with +4, and double damage. Alas, he missed: The dart plunged into empty water. The crocodiles started at us with deadly intent, but one of the players suggested that they may not be acutely aware of the connection between us and that splash of water. The GM relented and, instead of initiative, rolled reaction. The crocodiles were, after all, not very interested in us. Fine! No deadly intent. But the group felt that was enough hazardous games, and went around the crocodile lair in a very wide berth, all the while watched by the reptiles, but they elected, with reaction rolls at three times, to stay in their lair.
Grimble the Sayer was content: “There was a shot … it is fine! Now I can truthfully report that we fought, and bested, a group of crocodiles!”
Finally, the group reached the barrows, and fresh discussions broke out: Clearly the biggest one was “our” barrow, where we would find the blessed weapons. But should we go there right away, or get our feet wet first in a smaller one?
There were also some standing stones which had power — but this power would only be open for druids or clerics of Silvanus, not any others. “Well, Defre is a cleric of Silvanus,” Reinaldo said, pointing to his retainer. So Defre went to meditate at the standing stones, while Reinaldo and Eostre stood guard over him. The others tied up the mules at the standing stones and went to explore the burrows.
The first idea of the group was to get into Vincys’ grave first to secure the cauldron. But it turns out that the while several burrows have holes – from fallen trees (Vincys the Red) or sunken ground (northwest) etc. – the one of Errin’s Company has freshly dug entrance. Someone has opened it up using digging equipment, neatly stacked right there. Which means, someone is most likely still in there. Dirk affirms this: Two days ago there was no such entrance. So the big grave mound has to come first. The group inspects the entrance further and finds hoof prints. Goat hooves. The goat-men!! Three or four.
When the clerics are done with meditating, Defre is deeply touched by his god. He has received devine favour: Although he is only level 1, on this day he will be able to cast any one cleric spell of Level 1. Thank you, Silvanus!
Dirk, as a trader in relics, had the right item to sneak after the goat-men: A vial of the blood of Saint Fogarty. When he shook the vial and disturbed the fluid, it glowed and provided a reddish light. He did not sell it because he thought it might come in handy for him.
The group debated what to do: Wait for them and rob the goat-men when they came out? Attack them? Sneak and scout? The idea that got most traction was the sneaking one. Grimble the Sayer went first with Dirk’s red lamp. He found a room with mosaics; mosaics which told the story of Erinn and his friends. How they set out, how a hermit blesses them and their arms, how they win. The killing blow seems to be a strike with a sword into the wide open maw of the monster.
Others followed Grimble, and it turns out the mosaics contain valuable stones. The group started picking out the gems with knife points, while Eostre and Ephre stood guard outside, just in case, to make sure nothing sneaked up on us or stole our mules, which were tied up at the standing stones. A number of fine gemstones was pocketed: not extremely valuable, but vaulable enough.
From this room, two exits went out. One left, one right. The party hesitated, but then Reynard hears some sort of sobbing and bleating from the room to the east. Reinaldo moves forward with his lantern to check it out. He finds a half-man-half-goat, with hoofs and black fur, and a goat head, but hands and an upper body that follows the general design of men. The goat was sitting in a room full of niches. It wore an eye patch and had a short sword lying on the ground.
“Hey,” said Reinaldo, “what’s up, man …. or goat?”
“I’m Jasper,” answered the goat-man, “Jasper Red Eye.”
“Hey Jasper. What’s going on? Why are you sitting here?”
Jasper explained that their chief had sent them out east to secure a new base. They figured that this big mound here might make a good base, but they had been wrong. Jasper pointed out an exit to the north, that led to a stairwell deeper down. His friends had gone down there first, and they had been attacked by a flying skull and a ghost, and other things besides, and they had been killed horribly. He was the sole survivor, and he was sitting here trying to come to terms with the loss of his friends.
Reinaldo offered to help him out into the mosaic room to get his senses settled again, and they moved out. The others also assembled, and some questions were put to the goat-man:
- He had no clue about the caravan, the goat-men don’t have it, and he assumes the beast destroyed it.
- The goat-men camp is just a collapsed old temple, a pile of rubble. He calls it “the base”
- The chief wants a better place, preferably a castle
- The goat-men are aware that the humans think that they are a threat … that’s why they try to get more powerful
- In their camp/base they have lots of women and children, it is their whole tribe.
Reinaldo gave Jasper some water, and the thankful goat-man explained that one of the niches was blocked — that was the doing of him and his friends, because there was a slime in there and they locked it in. So the group was warned, and while plundering all the other niches, they left the blocked one well alone.
[Eostre talked to the goat-man again a bit later and asked him much the same questions, and got much the same answers. Jasper gave the impression of being a good, honest dude the whole time. Even though he called their camp a “base” with Eostre too, so they are indeed kind of militarised. Eostre was especially interested in the relationship between humans and goat-men, and Jasper said that the humans considered them bandits, while they themselves considered their behaviour “getting by”. Their behaviour being: They do not attack the caravan because it has guards and that seems risky. They very much do rob travellers in small numbers, but they rationalise that as “looking out for their tribe”. Eostre offered to facilitate a talk between the humans and the goats, to make sure they’d get a safe place for themselves to live in peace and prosper.(Obviously, Reinaldo is also a big softie. After all, he was the one who went all “here, have some water, poor goat-man!” We are all a bunch of softies. Nice soft OSR-hobos.)
(Eostre said after reading my last entry that I was making the character look like a big softie and animal rights champion, but that wasn’t true at all, but Eostre was rather a tough hard OSR-hobo! … well… apparently not, my friend!)
Anyway, Jasper found the idea great, and invited Eostre to speak with the boss. The boss being a thinker, while Jasper just being a small wheel in the works doing what he was told.]
Going east while Jasper spoke with Eostre, the others found a secret door leading to another chamber with big fat candles (loot) in a set of seven ornate candle holders (loot!). In the center of the room was chest holding the sacred robe of the hermit Saint Aelfre, and a gnarled stick, his staff. According to Dirk, those must be the originals!
This done, we ventured west, and found a room with four highly suspicious statues. Four knights facing inwards, designated
- “Valor” with sword and shield,
- “Piety” with a staff cradled in the arms,
- “Wisdom” with a book, and
- “Duty” with a load carried.
Very carefully, Grimble the sayer explored a safe path along the walls of the statue room, and from then on out we religiously kept to that path, and never ventured into the space in between the statues.
To the west of there they found one more place: A chapel This one was rather wet, with water dripping in and right on top of the head of a wooden statue of Saint Aelfre. The constant drip of the water had started some fungal growth on the head and face of the saint, and had rotted off the pews that were .
For the clerics, Reinaldo and Defre, the case was clear: It was impossible to let Saint Aelfre languish under the constant dripping. They grabbed the statue and moved it back, to a dry place. Obviously, that triggered the fungus to spray spore. Both of them had to roll a save versus poison. Defre made it with an 18. Reinaldo rolled a 1! But thanks to his god, Clobrek, he was allowed to re-roll 1s, and on his second go also got an 18! So both were fine. In thanks for their service, devine blessing settled on them, and for the rest of the day they will be on +1 for all rolls on this day.
Level 1 is cleared.
Time to dare Level 2.
It is some 1 or 2 p.m.
Photo: Peter Neumann, Unsplash