Saturday, November 14, 2009

Runequest Campaign: The Trouble With Trolls Part II

At the Kyger Litor stronghold, the night was disturbed by a massive wagon guarded by Rubble Trackers. The dwarves unloaded crates and barrels. Gragkizzie, leader of the dwarves, said that they were secret weapons and had Garrath employ an Oath spell to ensure the PCs would not reveal any of these secrets to outsiders. The dwarves were going to use these weapons on the trolls: a Disorder Keg, a Wonderbuss and two Pistoles. The PCs expressed some skepticism to their value.

The next morning the PCs, their Dwarf allies, Leotychidas, Stars Like Night, Njall and two of his followers gathered at the “back door” of the temple where the Dwarf assault had stalled previously. The dwarves threw down rocks and made noises to alert the trolls to their presence, hopefully gathering the trolls to a close defensive formation. Gragkizzie then lit what she called “fuse” to the Disorder Keg, a barrel the size of an average human, and rolled it down the stairs. Witha cry of “Fire in the trolls!” the assault party took cover. An explosion ripped back up the stairs and Gragkizzie and her followers Runi and Harc grabbed their secret weapons and charged down the stairs.

The sight that greeted the party was of a troll mob in disarray. Several trollkin were dead or severely wounded, with dark trolls also clearly wounded. A pair of Great Trolls and the Death Lord Magrak, however, appeared to have escaped serious injury. Gragkizzie leveled her Wonderbuss at a dark troll… and saw it blow up in her hands. Runi and Harc missed with their pistoles. Thinking, never send a dwarf to do a man’s work, the PCs and their allies charged in.

At this point Magrak yelled out, “Enloslikk! Cowards! Satakkash varkur uz! Fight like a troll! Satakkar garno! Single combat! Zu satakk mar! Your best man! Satakkar garno! Single combat!” Njall stepped forward, but Grom indicated that he had a Humakti geas never to turn down a challenge to single combat, and moved to face the Death Lord, whose favored weapon was a vicious looking Ball and Chain. As he passed by, Xaraya surreptitiously cast Protection I on Grom. This proved crucial.

Grom cast Bladesharp III, giving Magrak a chance to hit, and he landed a blow on the head which would have wounded Grom were it not for the Protection spell. Magrak parried Grom’s next blow, and then cast a Beserk spell, filling him with the fury of his dark god. There followed a mighty duel, where three times Grom came close to receiving grievous wounds that would have left him in serious trouble, but Xaraya’s Protection spell saved him. In return, Grom concentrated on Magrak’s abdomen, and eventually felled him. But Magrak’s beserk fury kept him going, and even after Grom had reduced much of his anatomy to a bloody pulp, he still frothed with bloodlust. When Grom succeeded in completely incapacitating the Death Lord, a Great Troll threw a slingshot at him, and battle was joined between the party and the treacherous trolls.

A long and hard battle saw the party completely victorious, but not without serious wounds to Xaraya and Njall. The party needed to use most of its healing magic to patch itself up, and found itself severely drained of magic points.

Consulting with Garrath’s party via mindlink, they discovered that the battle in the main temple had bogged down to an exchange of missile fire and magic, with the temple’s undead guardians proving difficult to cut through. Garrath confirmed that Keratagg Gan was not there, and that the PCs’ party should seek to find him, for if he fell then their troll allies might be able to persuade the temple to surrender.

Searching the troll barracks, the PCs found numerous treasures. They also found that Magrak was a surprisingly literate Death Lord and was studying 4 books he had rescued from the Rubble, including a Life of Pavis and a volume entitled “Secrets of the Garden.” Moving forward cautiously, the PCs found what was probably Magrak’s office, including a large map of the Rubble annotated in Darktongue, which seemed to detail a 300 year-long campaign against Chaos, but with surprisingly few recent notations. By this time, they had been joined by Dharrgag, the Karrg’s Son, who allowed Grom to take the map temporarily, but warned that it was Clan property.

In the next room, a disused cellar, the dwarves quickly located a secret door which opened on to stairs leading down. As they were heading down, cautiously, in battle formation, a small trollkin appeared to emerge from the stone, incongruously dressed in a red pallium. She gestured to the PCs to follow her. Looking around, the PCs realized everyone else in the party had frozen in place. The trollkin opened her robe to form what could only be called a portal, which the PCs stepped through.

They found themselves in a rough-hewn tunnel, in which they could see without any discernable sources of light. Following the trollkin, they soon found themselves approaching a small cave, in which a female troll was the only occupant, weighed down with many chains. She asked the PCs, “Do you know who I am?” and eventually Xaraya twigged she was the Queen of the Gunddahaak Clan. The successful answer seemed to dissolve some of the heaviest chains, but she remained firmly shackled to the ground. She revealed that she had not been captured by a rival clan, as everyone supposed, but imprisoned by Keratagg Gan. She asked the PCs to take word of her imprisonment to her mother, Kyger Litor, which the PCs agreed to do. To serve as a token of good faith, the Queen, Gretaslagg, asked Grom to take a tooth from her mouth. Grom was brave enough to do so, and wrenched the tusk from her maw.

The trollkin appeared again, and led the PCs on. This time they came to a huge cave, filled with firespouts and dark pools. In the center of the cave, working dark magics, was a terrifying creature, half troll woman and half spider. Behind her was a massive reptilian snout, the size of a palace. Skye recognized the troll creature as Cragspider the Fire Witch, and the snout obviously belonged to her ally, the Black Dragon.

Cragspider turned her attention to the PCs, and asked if they wished to be tested by Fire or Mind. Xaraya answered first, choosing Mind. She soon found her mind invaded by a powerful magic presence, clawing at her thoughts and memories. The assault caused he magical pain, but she was able to gather herself and expel the presence from her mind. Skye too chose the test of Mind, and was able to resist Cragspider’s mental claws quickly. Grom also chose the test of Mind, but when Cragspider saw the tusk he bore, she relented. The troll hero addressed the party, saying “You represent an aggrieved party. The crime is terrible. You must plead for your Queen before her mother. She will tell you what to do. Be ware, however, for she is likely to ask much of you. If you wish, you may leave this place now.” The party kept faith with their quest, and moved on.

Heading onwards, the trollkin guided the PCs into a cave where it somehow magically morphed into a gigantic, six-breasted female troll, suckling a variety of dark/mistress/great troll children that she somehow cradled in her giant arms. The PCs realized they were in the presence of the goddess Kyger Litor. A huge troll – Karrg – stood guard before her. Pools of water surrounded the PCs.

Grom managed to attract the goddess’ attention, and on seeing the tusk, she told the PCs that her daughter had been dishonored by Keratagg Gan, but that he was a servant of Zorak Zoran, who was not hers to command. She had Cragspider test the PCs because she would need emissaries of exceptional bravery and willpower to go deep into Hell and tell Zorak Zoran that his servant has forsaken him. They have passed that test, but she had further questions to ask of each PC.

To Grom, she said, “You are the servant of Humakt, and there is mutual hatred between him and Zorak Zoran. You are aware that many trolls in Sartar worship Humakt. Will you honor the Queen of Gunddahaak by bringing the word of Humakt to the tribe when you become an Acolyte of the god? The cult of Zorak Zoran will take time to rebuild and the tribe will need warriors.” Grom agreed, and the goddess asked him to drink from a pool. On quaffing the water, Grom realized he had integrated the Darkness Rune and gained the ability to speak Darktongue fluently.

To Xaraya, she said “Little one, you have lost your faith. Why is it so?” They discussed the reasons for Xaraya forsaking her original faith and her desire to learn powerful magics that could help destroy the Lunars. Kyger Litor asked Xaraya to drink from another pool and when she had finished she found that she had a tattered, ancient, fragment of a book in her hands, written in Darktongue, which she could now read. It was part of the Book of Arkat. The goddess told her to “seek the Kingtroll.”

To Skye, she said, “Sweet daughter of Pavis, you have walked in darkness before now. You follow a foreign goddess. Tell me, do you love Vinga or Pavis more?” Skye thought deeply and said that she preferred the Loyal Daughter more. The goddess nodded and asked Skye to promise to visit her son, Pikat Yaraboom, then reached out a claw and drew a Man Rune on her forehead.

Kyger Litor then told the PCs that they would be venturing deep into Hell and offered the help of her son Karrg, who seemed unhappy at the suggestion. Accompanied by the Demigod and the trollkin, they moved on.

The path led down, and the darkness became tangible and the heat greater. On the way, Skye attempted to engage Karrg in conversation. The demigod looked at her as if she was something he had found on the underside of his boot, turned and left them.

The trollkin led them down a side tunnel, and they came before an immensely obese troll matron, whom they realized was Xiola Umbar. She thanked Xaraya for returning her holy object and reached out to bless her. Xaraya realized she was now under Xiola Umbar’s protection and had also been blessed with fecundity.

Pressing on, the trollkin led the PCs down a series of increasingly dark and menacing tunnels. Things also got hotter. Fireholes could be seen. Noises began, which eventually Grom realized were screams. The screams, moans and other expressions of pain got louder and louder. Finally, the PCs entered a cave dominated by a huge troll-shape made of darkness and fire. This was Zorak Zoran, god of hate and vengeance, fear and violence. Shades danced around him, as did salamanders.

The god noticed the PCs and a wave of fear swept out from him. Skye and Xaraya stood their ground, but Grom was overcome by fear, dropped his possessions, turned and ran. Zorak Zoran then grabbed Xaraya and would have eaten her had he not realized she was under his sister’s protection. The god then asked Xaraya, “What do you hate?” She answered that she hated the Lunars, and the wave of hate that emanated from the god indicated he agreed. Xaraya understood he hated the Red Moon for violating the rule of darkness at night that Zorak Zoran had fought for during the Great Compromise.

With an air of extreme menace, the god asked them what they had come for. Together, Xaraya and Skye explained Keratagg Gan’s betrayal and its consequences. The god cursed the name of his priest in extreme terms and called up a spirit of hate and rage, the fabled Hell Roar. He tempered his hate towards the women, and they realized this was his form of blessing. Xaraya gained knowledge of the Firearrow spell, whilst Skye realized Zorak Zoran had granted her a use of the Command Ghost spell. The god commanded them to go, so they picked up Grom’s possessions, and a strange ivory object that resembled a massive snake fang, found Grom cowering in a side tunnel, and followed the trollkin away. After a short distance, enough for Grom to recover, the trollkin opened her cloak to form a portal, through which the PCs left. They found themselves back on the staircase, and as the trollkin disappeared, time started again.

Coming to the bottom of the stairs, tunnels led south and north. Skye attempted to scout southwards, but tripped and fell. A large Great Troll charged towards her, but missile fire, Grom and Leotychidas felled the troll. On its body they found a large lead key. Progressing further, the party found a prison. In it, they found a cowardly Lunar agent called Erastes Fulmen, whom the party decided to leave locked up until they had dealt with Keratagg Gan, four elves and a sickly dryad, with whom Leotychidas could haltingly communicate, and a naked Chalanna Arroy priestess, Charvaina, who had been reduced to skin and bones. All wore slave collars, which the party broke. Grom clad Charvaina in his cloak, and the priestess used what she could of her skills to tend to the dryad. They found a couple of bows to arm the healthier of the elves.

Turning north, the party advanced in battle formation and came across a room that could only be described as a chapel. Its floor, walls and vaulted ceiling were decorated with scenes of soaring spires and swooping dragons. The floor was made of a mosaic that depicted a ring of twelve dragons, each holding another’s tail in its mouth. Human faces were associated with each dragon, and Skye recognized Obduran the Flyer, Lorenkarten the Mile and Isgangdrang the Storm, members of the Eternal Dragon Ring of the EWF.

More importantly, however, was a trollish mob, with about twenty dark trolls, four dark trolls and Keratagg Gan all in battle formation. Most had cast fireblade. Two large shades were advancing towards the party, while the black smoke spirit with hammers for hands hovered above them. Keratagg Gan laughed.

At this point, the party saw the darkness and smoke leach from the shades and spirit, while the fire from the fireblades was also drawn towards a mass in the centre of the vaulted ceiling. The shades and spirit ceased to be and the fire left the weapons completely as the mass formed into the creature the PCs recognized as Hell Roar. Speaking in Darktongue, Hell Roar yelled, “Traitor! Faithless! Weakling! You have forsaken your calling! You toy with chaos and replace hate with greed! You shall come to hell not as a servant, but as a slave!” It picked up Keratagg Gan and literally ripped his soul from his body. As the corpse fell to the ground, Dharrgag the Karrg’s Son called out to the trolls to lay down their arms or be cursed by Zorak Zoran. All spells the enemy trolls had cast fizzled and, overcome by fear, they all complied.

While the others were ensuring the trolls were firm in their intent to surrender, the dwarves checked the room and found a secret door. Behind, they found Keratagg Gan’s real office. It contained a variety of documents in Darktongue that indicated that Gan’s plan to take over the clan, then the entirety of the Stronglands, has been underway for a while. There were indications that Gan had been dealing with a mysterious adviser, known only by the codename of Runeface. At this point, the PCs noticed the red-robed trollkin, who indicated a section of the office wall before disappearing. Searching they found a secret door. Behind it they discovered Queen Gretaslagg, heavily chained and wearing a slave collar. On being freed, she swore undying gratitude to the PCs and demanded the heads of Keratagg Gan and Magrak (which were later delivered). Xaraya contacted Garrath and relayed the events to him. Dharrgag went to convey the truth to the remaining defiant forces in the temple.

Exploring further, the PCs found Gan’s bedchamber, which also contained various items of very expensive human female clothing, leading Xaraya to speculate that Runeface might be a human woman with odd tastes. Beyond, they found Keratagg Gan’s hoard of treasure, which contained a small fortune in coin and various magical items, including an iron Humakti helmet that Grom was very keen to lay claim to.

The Queen invited the assault parties, even the dwarves and elves, to a celebration that she presided over with the heads of Keratagg Gan and Magrak adorning her throne. In the riotous celebration, Xaraya was challenged to drink an entire cup of Powzie! Amazingly, she survived all ten sips, with progressive loss of faculties. By the end, she was dancing on the tables without any idea what she was doing, and would have succumbed to Garrath’s amorous advances had not Skye seen in her a sister in trouble and blocked Sharpsword’s intentions.

The next day, nursing hangovers, the assault party returned to the Flintnail Temple. Gragkizzie agreed to use the Flintnail tunnels to move most of the PC’s share of the loot into New Pavis, where it could be picked up without attracting the Lunars’ attention. However, there remained the question of what to do with Erastes Fulmen, whose story could not seem to stay straight. The PCs agreed to take him in via the People’s Gate themselves.

Fulmen was clearly known to the gate guards, who seemed to snigger at the PCs for being associated with him. The last story they had got from Erastes was that he was working for Jotaran Longsword, Constable of Pavis, and the PCs decided to accompany him to Jotaran’s office to check out this story. On the way, however, they encountered a Lunar patrol that took charge of Erastes. The PCs followed the patrol and were surprised to see it take him to the Silk and Plume instead of any of the administrative buildings.

After picking up their loot from the Flintnail temple and a quick trip to the Knowledge Temple, where at last they could afford identification services, Grom decided that they should finally arrange the auction of the Bonesung Armor…

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