Monday, 16 September 2019

Basic D&D: Solo Adventure, Cadman Cadsson, Chapter II

***

The passage is clearly not used, or at least avoided. Leaves and dirt collect at the edges before opening into a large room. Cadman pans his lantern left to right. A red-brown moss or dust covers the floor to every corner. Cadman spots a large green stone, then another, and another! Cadman starts forward with the lantern following ruts behind the gemstones in the red-brown dirt. Cadman stops, seeing how the stones leave trails. Something dragged them? He makes out what looks like a sweep in the dust. A snort from the rear corner turns Cadman around, the lantern stopping on a large creature waking up. 

The creature's hide is the color of the floor with thick, lumpy, bone-like folds. A long tail whips across the floor revealing more rough stones in the lantern light. Two long, red feathered stalks reach out toward Cadman, with an animal like hunger. Its black eyes swallowing the lantern light. 

Cadman, drops the lantern from his grip to swings at the creature's head, cutting a line between the stalks and ducking as the same reach for his shield. Cadman turns his duck into a thrust, driving the sword into the creature's shoulder to feel it bite and crack the lumpy hide. The creature lets out a high-pitched yelp and twists to Cadman. The feather stalks sweeping forward. Cadman leans back and the stalks trace an arc in the air.

The creature charges out of the corner, leading with the feathered stalks forward and reaching. Cadman rapidly retreats leaving the creature is just out of reach. The lantern's shutters had opened wide on impact with the floor, and the weight of the oil stands it upright. Long shadows confuse Cadman and the creature. Cadman thrusts low at the eyes, the sword point glancing off a bony protrusion. The creature's stalks sweeping across the back of Cadman's hand. The down-like texture giving him chills as it seems to be alive, seeking something on his flesh.

Cadman turns, using the lantern light to confuse the creature, sword pointed down, thrusting into the thick, overlapping, armor-like hide. Cadman feels the sword bite muscle. The creature twists in reaction, squealing. The stalks stiffen in pain and both strike Cadman's shield like clubs. Cadman's arm jerks upward in a reaction to a sudden loss of weight on the shield arm. The rivets securing the leather to the shield's inside snap and the shield falls; a thin, wasted shape of steel on the floor.

Cadman reacts with a wide swing that cuts the air and the creature presses the attack, but misjudges Cadman's retreat and, reaching forward with the hungry stalks, exposes its neck. Cadman seize the opening and thrusts down, hard. Muscle and bone part and the creature collapses to the floor, motionless. A thick, red gore begins draining from the neck wound.

The quiet is interrupted by a bubbling sigh, the last breath of the creature. Cadman pauses to catch his own breath. The intensity of the fight, less than a minute, rapidly settles on him.

Resting against the wall, he stares at the remains of his shield. Cadman searches his mind for stories of the creature he just killed. A "Rust Monster"? It explains much: his shield, the red-brown dust all over the floor. Surely it is starving in these caves and passages. The loss of the shield exposes him; it made up for any skill he lacked in a pressed fight. And if there are goblins in these caves, this whole adventure just got a lot more dangerous.

Cadman grabs his lantern and immediately returns his thoughts to the gemstones scattered about. Briefly inspecting each, he drops them into a small bag and searches his memory for appraisers and fences in town to turn into coin.

Cadman looks back to the statue room and turns to another west passage. The lantern reveals a short corridor and Cadman can make out a northern passage about midway. His blood is pumping. Gems in his pocket. His armor and sword still intact. Cadman decides to go west a bit and see how these caves may create a larger network.

Cadman is immediately aware of just how big the network is. Coming to the intersection of the west and north passages, he recognizes something just beyond his lantern further west. Light from another exposed rock cleft. This is the entrance he ventured into just days ago. Ghouls lie that way. Cadman retreats to the northern passage and shines the lantern up the passage. A room lies about 30 feet further, just beyond the light of his lantern. He listens for a moment, but only hears his heartbeat. 

Cadman checks his armor's fittings. He may be more exposed, but he's seen the shield wall on campaign. Courage is a bet, often taken with a fool's odds of winning. Cadman decides to take the bet, though has never considered himself a fool, and walks north, shuttering his lantern to hide his approach.

***

The lantern light dimly falls on the wall of a large room. Cadman catches movement from his right. A sword swing falls on his pauldron with a loud crash and a long scrape as the blade drags down the length of Cadman's sword arm, biting into the armor at the elbow and tearing links of mail that cut into flesh. Cadman winches, throwing his lantern toward the threat. The chaos of shadows as the lantern falls give no pause to the threat, as another sword swings, but misses. 

Cadman's eyes grow wide at the sight of two skeletons, silent as they are dead, prepare to attack. Given no time to remain shocked, Cadman quickly takes in the size of the room and, from the wall, feints a charge on the skeleton to his left only to move wider with his sword arm delivering a skull splitting swing. Cadman's sword drives into the cheek bone, tearing the jaw and scattering rotting teeth. The swing carves though the shoulder and scapula easily severing the arm from the skeleton. The unseen magical energies and the rotting bindings of flesh fail the skeleton and it collapses in a pile of bones.

Cadman recovers from the swing and thrusts his sword into the chest of the remaining skeleton. A murdering thrust, but the blade slips between ribs and through the back. No less harm could have been done to this fell thing. The skeleton swings and its sword weakly clangs on Cadman's forearm bracer where his shield would have been.

Cadman yanks his sword out of the skeleton and swings at the neck. Unprotected by armor or flesh the sword cracks through the spine and before the head bounces off the stone floor the body is collapsing on itself like dry twigs. It is over in three swings.

Cadman sits down to catch his breath. He has seen the bodies of dead men rotting after a battle, picked clean by carrion birds and the bones left after time. To see them walking is the work of Chaos for certain. Was it Bargle or another worshiper of Wee Jas that set these here? Cadman flexes his elbow and pulls out chain links that are biting into his forearm. A little blood, but nothing that will fester and not enough to consider quaffing the potion the Ulaan priests gave him.

Standing, he scans the room and the bones. Nothing of value in the bones or room. Just a stout oak door on the far wall. Cadman checks the door. A keyed latch. Tugging on the door shows that it is securely locked. Grabbing a sword from the skeletons, rusty, but serving the task Cadman has in mind. He pushes the sword into the jamb and kicks at the lock. The sword snaps crashing to the floor and door doesn't budge. No key is found in the skeletons or the room. Cadman recalls something Aleena had told him about bringing a thief along, "They can pick locks. A useful skill in caves and dungeons with locked doors!" With no key and no thief, Cadman pulls his pack taut, picks up the lantern and considers the routes out of the statue room.

The note was old and he heard rats. The east exit is an option. Gobbos settle in caves like these, but he only has a note and the words of the farmer that a band of Gobbos that go by the name Lost Eye Gobbos are in the hills and caves. There was the goblin working with Bargle. Cadman gets angry thinking about Aleena's murderer. Maybe, if the goblins are still to the north they deserve his sword's edge and point.

Cadman shutters his lantern passing through the room of the rust monster, then walks around the statue to the northern passage. Slowing to carefully walk the twenty or thirty feet north and then east, Cadman sees torch light flickering ahead in room that opens east, but stretches north around the corner.

Cadman peeks around the corner. He can not believe his luck. Two goblins are talking in their guttural language, but the one with the nose ring and colorful tabard, Bargle's aide! It wasn't just the nose ring that Cadman recognized, knowing goblins adorn such loops by the dozens in their flesh, but it was Aleena's tabard. Torn and stained with food and grease, the tabard is this goblin's trophy. Cadman tightens his grip on his sword, takes a deep breath and charges into the room. His fierce gaze fixed on a goblin wearing a tabard.

Posted by caffeinated at 9:00 AM in d10

 

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