Sunday, 11 April 2021

K is for Krieg, Knight of the Realm, Member of the Red Company

The is the first post of three looking at members of the Red Company, a once upstart and uncommonly allied group of adventurers that have become well-known heroes of Oerth. The Red Company is the party of player characters in this D&D campaign taking place in this version of the World of Greyhawk, the original campaign setting of D&D.

Kreig, simply Krieg, is a dwarf fighter, is a champion of Law of barbarian strength1, and wielder of twin flaming Efreeti blades. Kreig was knighted by Prince Thromell for participating in the Prince's rescue from The Temple of Elemental Evil and granted lands in the east of the Kingdom of Furyondy. 

Krieg is also the wielder of Whelm, a legendary hammer, rumored to be magically intelligent. He came into possession of Whelm and the Efreeti blades following the defeat of the Anciet Red Dragon Keraptis after the Battle of Emridy Meadows and defeating the guardians of White Plume Mountain.

He prefers his two flaming Efreeti scimitars over Whelm, a hammer that continuously pesters Krieg about its forging, its "brothers," or the sunlight. Besides his Red Company brothers-in-arms, he has been seen with a loyal cadre of northern barbarians, leading them into a fight against beasts or into hordes of fiends aligned with Iuz. The barbarian cadre are thought to be ghosts summoned by Krieg's Iron Horn of Valhalla. Krieg is never without his warhammer Rocky Horror or his battle axe Strange Love, magical weapons made legend by their fearless wielder.

Krieg is a known entrepreneur and financier of the much sought after Krieg-mart chain "Purveyor of Quality Outdoor Adventure Supplies." Recently, broadsheets have circulated that Krieg-mart has been aggressively buying makers of tents, creating a supply problem, making tents and tent fabric more and more expensive.

Krieg's position as a Knight of Furyondy, a member of the Red Company, and a fighter that has delivered many victories to his liege Prince Thrommel, has given him a lot of flexibility and afforded him the means to continue adventuring and campaigning. He was recently appointed by the Prince to chair a group of knights overseeing the Kingdom's taxation and wealth sharing laws. He has yet to appear in a session, deferring to Hugh, his representative to merchant guilds and manager of Krieg-mart expansion.




  1. [1] As a character in D&D, this makes Krieg a 18th level Dwawen Fighter Champion with a level of the Barbarian class.

Posted by caffeinated at 1:48 PM in d10

Saturday, 10 April 2021

J is for Count Artur Jakartai

It has been rumored for sometime that the Count Jakartai of the County of Crystalreach in the Kingdom of Furyondy has been recently courting southern allies on his borders with the Empire of Iuz along the Veng River.1

These rumors turned greatly to fact as a flotilla of warships from the Restored Holy Realm of the Faithful of the Shield Lands travelled north to the besieged Castle Hart near the Fort Barduk on the Count's southeastern frontier and the ruins of what was called Port Valour. The flotilla, sponsored by Her Most Honorable Ladyship, Countess Katarina of Walworth, Knight Commander of the Shield Lands, landed at Barduk with the much famed Red Company.

The Red Company stayed briefly at Barduk and soon crossed the Veng into Iuz's grossly extended frontier between the Rivers Veng on the west and the River Ritensa on the east. For the Countess Katarina, the use of the Red Company, strongly allied with Furyondy through its landed members met two goals: extending the front along the Veng river north and showing the Shield Land faithful, always looking east from Critwall, that she was ready to push across the Veng. Count Jarkatai has a different political problem that he is currently deflecting with entreaties to Furyondy that the Church of Heironeous approves of the actions. He was greatly relieved that Hetel, cleric of Heironeous and an ally of the Red Company, boldly supported the action as well.

The Red Company's success in Furyondy's seemingly never ending war against Iuz proved a great relief to Count Jakartai. He has since been able to land a large force on the eastern shore of the Veng and pushed the frontlines all the way to the Southern Skull Trail extending from Boulderford in the north to Krabalsthorp in the south.




  1. [1] Living Greyhawk Gazetter, Eric Mona, et al., Wizards of the Coast

Posted by caffeinated at 8:40 PM in d10

Friday, 9 April 2021

I is for Iuz the Old

In the lore of Greyhawk, Iuz ("EYE-ooze")1 has evolved over the decades. Many first encounter his description in The Temple of Elemental Evil, a campaign setting for Greyhawk published in 1985 and recognized as one of the best campaigns published in the long history of Dungeons and Dragons.

Iuz is a demi-god, thought to be spawn of the demon Lord Graz'zt and Iggwilv, thought by some to also be Tasha, a powerful wizard raised by Baba Yaga.2 A cambion, a fiend possessing the powers and traits of its parents, Iuz is a seemingly immortal despot.

He is known to the commoner as Iuz the Old One or Iuz the Evil, attributes of how he chooses to be seen by or known to mortals. He is seen by most scholars as the demi-god patron of Evil, Deceit, Pain, and Oppression.

Iuz has been the known consort of Zuggtmoy, the Demoness Lady of Fungi3. Zuggtmoy is currently imprisoned in The Temple of Elemental Evil and remains there through the efforts of The Red Company. This encounter has raised The Red Company to the attention of Iuz and his circle of Bonehearts. The newest member of this circle, General Amara Azrené has personally taken on confrontation with the company and is both acting for Iuz and herself, though it is certain Iuz is aware of any selfish action Amara may be taking.

Iuz's attentions are many, but expanding his empire, dedicated to his patronage, remains his main focus. Troublesome mortals are left mostly to his Bonehearts. He has reportedly been seen less and less. Rumors say that he has grown wary of appearances as they are often quickly visited by gods of Law and Good. Iuz's nemesis is the lesser god St. Cuthbert of the Cudgel. They have often fought on the mortal plane and St. Cuthbert's uncanny nose for finding Iuz visiting his armies, his priests, or his paramour Zuggtmoy, has made Iuz weary of trivial appearances.




  1. [1] Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, E. Gary Gygax, Eric Mona, et al., Wizards of the Coast

  2. [2] Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, Jeremy Crawford, et al., Wizards of the Coast

  3. [3] The Temple of Elemental Evil, E. Gary Gygax, Frank Mentzer, Wizards of the Coast

Posted by caffeinated at 8:46 AM in d10

Thursday, 8 April 2021

H is for Hugh, free peasant, guild member

Few peasants can speak to rising out of the muck and grind of a peasant's typical life. Hugh is one of those few. In the Village of Hommlet, Hugh met the newly landed Knight of the Realm, Member of the Red Company, Krieg, an imposing and entrepreneurial dwarf fighter.

Krieg saw potential opportunity in Hommlet in an abandoned trading post. The previous owners of the trading post were members of a cult pledged to the Temple of Elemental Evil and met their demise when they were discovered by the Red Company.

Krieg placed Hugh in charge of the trading post in Hommlet. Through the growing name recognition of Krieg in the last year, and the recognition that a recently found and circulated prophecy that spoke of the return of a "Red Company of Heroes," Hugh has parleyed his simple watch of the trading post into a position in the Merchant's Guild.

This position has afforded Hugh the opportunity to act on his Lord's charge, "Grow Krieg-mart throughout all kingdoms." Hugh has met this charge and more. Hugh now runs four Krieg-mart trading posts for his Lord: Hommlet's quaint original, one in Critwall, one in Verbobonc, and new one opening in Galt, a secluded waypoint on the Elven ley line network. This newest Kreig-mart is Hugh's attempt at capturing a wealthly and private elvish market for Krieg and Kreig-mart. The Galt trading post may prove to be the most expensive setup yet.

Hugh's tenacious mindset to mastering the merchant mind has made Kreig-mart a recognized name in many capitals, with members of the merchant guilds jealously courting Hugh for get the next Krieg-mart. This has made Hugh quite comfortable and created an income stream for Kreig that supports his greatest interest at the moment: campaigning with the Red Company.

Posted by caffeinated at 8:22 PM in d10

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

G is for Plar of the Rift, Durand Grossman

The Rift Canyon is a land feature of immense scope, 300 miles or more from the western to eastern ends and half or more at its widest point north to south. It is over 4 miles deep and seemingly impossible mesas rise from the canyon floor.

The people's of the Rift are led by Durand Grossman1, the self-appointed, and oddly named, Plar of the Rift. Plar Grossman leads a mixed band of native Rift tribes and refugees of Iuz's constant attacks from the Tangles, a deep and near impassable forest, at Iuz's southern front. Grossman is amassing an army in defense of not just the Rift, but an army to exact a particular type of retribution on the allies of Iuz. To this end, he is allying with fractions on the surface.

Grossman received word through these allies that The Red Company would need guides in the Rift Canyon to find the Greater Boneheart Amara Azrené. Plar Grossman is a gregarious host to all real or presented "diplomats" from the surface. The Plar laid the seeds with The Red Company to secure support for arms and action to rid the Rift Canyon of Iuz's garrisons in the Leering Keeps, a series of forts that guarded well known exits from the Rift and launching points for Iuz's constant raids on silver mining in the depths of the canyon.

Grossman provided The Red Company with the necessary guides and through this, The Red Company discovered that beneath the canyon lies a "hollow world," as large as the canyon itself. Peopled and populated by evil creatures that worship dark gods and thrive in a world being poisoned by Amara's magics and her promise of the complete destruction of the Rift and the very surface that the Rift embodies and inhabits.




  1. [1] Durand Grossman is Greyhawk canon. Gary had a way with names.

Posted by caffeinated at 1:35 PM in d10

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

F is for Flameflower

Flameflower is the seat of Elven power in the Vesve Forest in the northwest frontier of the Kingdom of Furyondy. The forest extends along the southwestern edge of the Clatspur Range of mountains and the forest's northeastern frontier borders the frontiers of the Empire of Iuz.

Kashafen Tamarel of Flameflower, Lord of the High Elves of the Vesve, holds court in Flameflower. The town primarily serves as the home of the Lord's court and the small population of 500 high elves living here act in the Lord's interest. An elite guard of High Elves is present at all times.

Flameflower has many secrets, but two standout. The first is a prison of magical construction and the second is less an absolute secret, but closely guarded: a network of ancient Elven menhirs connected to powerful ley lines. 

The prison is constructed of magics that confuse those put inside. Once inside, the prison strives to make its "prisoners" comfortable, and more importantly, grow complacent while providing the guard and Kashefen Tamarel a direct method of spying on the prisoners. The prison's magics can be quite beguiling to those inside and loosens tongues quickly. But too long in the prison can leave one very confused once released, to the point some have gone insane.

The network of ley line powered gates are similar to teleport circles, but constructed of ancient magics keyed to gemstones. More recently, control of these gates became an objective of Iuz's allies. The Red Company, following a lead on this interest found themselves traveling the gates to a hub menhir under siege by Iuz's forces. Here, the company learned of General Amara Azrené's fall from Law and her true plans for reshaping the world through fire.

Posted by caffeinated at 9:56 PM in d10

Monday, 5 April 2021

E is for Emridy Meadows

The Emridy Meadows lie northwest of the Village of Hommlet, near Emridy Run, a small river.

In 569 CY, Prince Thromell led forces of Law against a horde of Chaos that had arisen from the then nascent Temple of Elemental Evil. The Prince delivered a stunning defeat to the forces of Chaos, but he was lost in the battle; no body was recovered. It would be learned much later he was captured and placed in a magical stasis deep in the dungeons of the Temple, forgotten until found and rescued by The Red Company.

The Red Company, through the use of powerful time-bending magics, returned to Emridy Meadows to fulfill a geas of a Gynosphinx bound to the White Plume Mountain by a long thought dead wizard, Keraptis; a wizard last seen in the first century of the common calendar. At the close of the Battle at Emridy Meadows, the Red Company pursued the retreating forces aligned with Iuz, the Temple, and Keraptis to a town on the River Veng. Here Keraptis revealed his true form: an Ancient Red Dragon!1

The fight left the Red Company wounded, yet it fulfilled the obligation of the geas. Keraptis was dead and the history books would be rewritten and updated. Their heroics at Emridy Meadows and on the Veng River would become a prophecy told for the next ten years, that when they returned to their own timeline, would catch up to the Red Company and be fulfilled in with great fanfare on their return from the White Plume Mountain.




  1. [1] In the canon of Greyhawk, Keraptis disappears in the first century of the Oeridian calendar, circa 90 CY. And the above history is mostly of my making, building off the canon of Greyhawk and making it malleable, fitting it to the story my players and I create at the table. Using the seeds of the canon, I build on notes such as Keraptis's legendary "gruesome threats...fulfilled just often enough to keep [people] afraid of him" or his single known work, The Pyronomicon, to find a new story in the fiction. In hindsight, he is the perfect Red Dragon. Slumbering in a volcano until Iuz awakens him. The canon of Gnomes and clones... nah.

Posted by caffeinated at 12:54 PM in d10

Sunday, 4 April 2021

D is for Dala and Dick Rensch

Dala was a cutpurse plying her trade in Nulb, a filthy trading outpost on Imeryds Run. She is the paramour of the hostler, and part-time pirate, Dick Rensch, at The Waterside Hotel. 

Dala and Dick ran something of a racket at the Waterside Hotel in Nulb before it was burned to the ground by a grease fire that started in the kitchen. Witnesses say a fight broke out in the kitchen. The fire had spread so quickly, it was quickly rumored to set by magical means, though many did not rule out rivalries or revenge, especially since Dala had been growing more brazen in her activities, often leaving men jilted, poorer, or frustrated; sometimes all three. The hotel had been used as meeting place for recruiting by river pirates and bandit gangs in the area.

It is not known what happened to Dala and Dick after losing the hotel. The lack of a place where Dala could ply her skills, aided greatly by her allure and free-flowing spirits, the pair likely abandoned Nulb for "opportunities" on the river.

The area around Nulb and regular trading routes on Imeryds Run were seeing an increasing number of raids, raids often planned at The Waterside Hotel or its not so friendly competitor the Boatman's Tavern. The criminal activity had been rumored to be caused by evil influences emanating from the ascendant forces gathering in the nearby ruins of the Temple of Elemental Evil.

Posted by caffeinated at 9:12 PM in d10

A to Z 2021 Posts Incoming

I have been a long participant of the Blogging A-to-Z Challenge. My MeWe feed recently started filling up with posts from like-minded participants in the RPG community. 

In 2011 I won the Best of the Fans award from The Altdorf Correspondent, Magnus Seter, for my series of WFRP posts. I continued for five years, but dropped after the organizers, in my humble opinion, flubbed the participation effort. 

I'm about to catch up. My theme will focus on PCs, NPCs, and Places in my current Dungeons and Dragons 5e Greyhawk campaign.

Greyhawk?! Fifth edition?! Never the twain have met. Bullshit. Your D&D is not my D&D. And the dirty little secret of D&D is that even Gary said there are no setting or rules gatekeepers.

Posts will be "back-dated" so there may be some catch up for readers!

3...

2...

1...

Posted by caffeinated at 2:04 PM in d10

Saturday, 3 April 2021

C is for Captain Jacque Herz

Captain Jacque Herz is an member of Prince Thromell the IV's personal retinue and master of the Prince's elite guard.

After Prince Thrommel's rescue by The Red Company from a magical stasis deep in the Temple of Elemental Evil, Captain Jacque was assigned to accompany the heroes to the White Mountain and defeat a rising threat on the frontiers of Law by Keraptis, a wizard long thought dead, "arisen" in service to Iuz.

Defeat of Keraptis by the Red Company had Captain Jacque return to Furyondy where he returned to his role in the court of Prince Thromell. He would not be seen by the Red Company again until he revealed himself in Dorakaa.

Captain Jacque, as part of a secondary effort to penetrate deep into Iuz's inner circles, had been subjected to powerful magics of disguise. In the form of a Dragonborn mercenary in service to a Boneheart house, Jacque was assigned as part of an escort to watch over the Red Company, themselves subjected to the same magics of disguise. 

The Red Company, having found favor in the same Boneheart house, was assigned to recover conscripted beasts of war that had escaped into the tundra surrounding Dorakaa. The Red Company's escort, including Captain Jacque, were under specific orders to kill the fugitives and the assigned trackers. When Captain Jacque deduced the three members of the house were his old friends he ambushed the escort knowing The Red Company would seize the opportunity and in doing so add to a growing fraction of the house losing confidence in the leaders of the Boneheart house. 

Jacque revealed himself announcing, "I told these fools, 'never bet against The Red Company!'," referring to a moment when the escort took bets watching The Red Company fight creatures in an ambush of the lead column.

He helped quietly behind the scenes in his own assignment to sow distrust and animosity in the houses of the Bonehearts. Jacque joined The Red Company on their hasty departure from Dorakaa after finding out that General Amara had seen through their disguises, but capitalized on the division they had been sowing to secure her place in the circle of Greater Bonehearts of Iuz.

He parted ways with The Red Company again and has not been seen for some time, thought to be back in the service of Thromell's court in Furyondy.

Posted by caffeinated at 8:29 AM in d10

Friday, 2 April 2021

B is for Boneheart

The Bonehearts of Iuz are well documented in the lore of Greyhawk.

Consisting of two circles, Lesser and Greater, they lead, advise, and otherwise act as the few that Iuz can "trust," if trust is even something that he can know. Much has been written about the Bonehearts in the annals of Oreth's lawful kingdoms. Many of the Lesser circle of eight members are known. The Greater Bonehearts are are lesser known, but it is thought that all are powerful wizards, witches, warlocks, or demi-gods themselves. The membership of both circles often change. Typically through the ruthless exploitation of weakness or a misstep by the current members of both circles. Iuz would likely have it no other way.

The Lesser Bonehearts are often deployed to lead fractions of Chaos on the frontiers of his empire in the northern climes of Oreth; pressing constantly on the borders of Law and seeking to influence and corrupt the Kings, Queens, and Principalities of the same.

The Bonehearts were likely the patrons of the fractions of The Temple of Elemental Evil and Kraptis in the White Mountain. Both sites of Iuz's greatest and deepest attempts yet at destroying the these kingdoms in the recent past.

Posted by caffeinated at 8:00 AM in d10

Thursday, 1 April 2021

A is for Amara Azrené

General Amara Azrené has sought for years to elevate herself into the Greater Bonehearts of Iuz, the Cambion demigod son of Graz'zt, a demon lord of the Abyss, and the human witch Iggwilv. 

Amara was formally a member of a company of powerful magic users at the frontier of human and elven lands, bordering the Empire of Iuz. Corrupted by Iuz and the temptation of power greater than she had known, she betrayed the guardians to Iuz's forces. Through influences of ancient and forgotten powers, she entered Dorakaa, Iuz's capital and became an influential member in the circle of Greater Bonehearts through deception and ruthless murder. Amara is now a member of this elite circle that advises and performs the evil work of Iuz. Her true patron, known or unknown to Iuz, has led her on a quest to reshape Oreth through the very destruction of the world, Law and Chaos alike.

Her only opposition: The Red Company, a band of heroes that have thwarted several attempts of her peers in the Greater Bonehearts. Yet her greatest plan was set in motion alongside these seemingly failed efforts at conventional empire building.

Even now the Red Company works to stop her most destructive effort yet, bring the very heavens down.

Posted by caffeinated at 8:00 AM in d10

Monday, 23 September 2019

Basic D&D: After the Adventure

Cadman is rich by any historical measure of a commoner, possibly conscripted to serve on campaign to fight for Lord and Land. The encounter with the Magic Mouth doubled his treasure collected: 1200gp in gems, 143gp in coin (converted). He walked away with another 360XP from encounters. He adds another 10% XP, or 170, for the Fighter Prime Requisite bonus. The total is 1873XP. Added to Cadman's 253 from the first introductory adventure with Aleena, that's 2126XP. 

Cadman advances to Second Level. A Warrior! While not specifically introduced for another few pages, we know from pg. 12, Experience, that Cadman will get 1d8 Hit Points per level plus Constitution modifier. Cadman's 16 Constitution is a +2 to Hit Dice rolls per level. Cadman rolls a 3 on 1d8! That's 5 Hit Points for the level advance, and a little better than average (with the bonus).

The Solo Adventure closes with an introductory equipment list with the note that there "... are more weapons and equipment available in group adventures." Part of me feels this is an odd reproach for the reader. However, we'll abide for the time being and revisit this much later in Making up a new character following introduction to the seven types, or classes.

We also close the Solo Adventure with a complete map of the dungeons Cadman explored. We now know that behind the locked door was a treasure room that had a secret door and a passage deeper into the hillside. The treasure remains the property of the Lost Eye goblins.

What comes next?

Two other solo adventures were published in the mid-'80s. M1 Blizzard Pass and M2 Maze of the Riddling Minotaur. Both are available on DriveThruRPG, the former had invisible ink entries, and DriveThru tells us the version scanned has all entries revealed.

But D&D is "a group game ... best for 3-6 players." And one of those needs to be the Dungeon Master, or DM. The new DM should read the DUNGEON MASTERS RULEBOOK and "should not try to run a game before looking at that book."

I really enjoy these four paragraphs in this section. In hindsight there is a ton to unpack, and we seem to be relearning so much of it in podcasts and blogs. From table size, to teaching each other how to play, to just starting with the pre-generated characters in the center pages. Everyone can play the same fighter, just give each a different name! And the now assumed roles of Tank, Healer, Damage Dealer are touched on, noting that groups of 4-6 should try to have most of the classes given.

Don't try to memorize everything...

...but try to remember the types of things explained." Truer words of how play evolved in the 36 years since have never been typed.

Character Classes

This section is a bit of an introduction to the world fiction of D&D. What do I mean? Simply put, Humans are ascendant, non-humans, or "demi-humans" (because they seem to be partially human) are descendant. Dwarves1, Elves, and Halflings are "classes [and] also a separate race of beings."

The rules for creating characters of all types will be shortly introduced in the following pages, but we get a recap of the Prime Requisite for each character class and the table. We also get a recap of how each class will also have a Saving Throw Table.

Race as Class or Just... Fighters?

Humans have Fighter, Thief, Cleric, and Magic-User classes, but each race is only a Fighter. The Elf is something of a dual-class type, a Fighter-Magic-User, or more closely, an Advanced D&D Ranger. All the races build on the stereotypes and tropes of contemporary fantasy literature found in the Appendix N of Advanced D&D, but none are Thieves or Clerics and all are Fighters. Advanced D&D introduces finer distinctions, for example, Elven Thieves and Clerics are introduced (and still restrict demi-humans in specific ways), but the limits on the demi-humans in Basic D&D is a hard line difficult to houserule without work.

It is this Fighter foundation, in my opinion, that makes each race less a hard Class in itself, but just a fighter-type with attributes typical of the fantasy setting. I'm splitting hairs of course, but I simply feel that the appellation of Race as Class fails to deals with the simple fact: they are all Fighters in name, Veterans, Warriors, and Swordmasters.




  1. [1] Yes, Dwarves, not Dwarfs. Suck it.

Posted by caffeinated at 8:43 PM in d10

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Basic D&D: Solo Adventure, Author Notes

The entire Cadman Cadsson narrative is constructed from a single play-through of the Solo Adventure using the rules-as-presented in the section. I recorded each entry in a single column with a note in a second column about the choice taken. So, I could see in referring to it throughout the drafting how I played Cadman. 

Soon, I had a third column when something happened, like the Rust Monster's attack that destroys the shield. It would have have short note like "lost shield, opfor attacks +1" (yes, I wrote "opfor," Opposition Force, Opposing Force, mil-slang I picked up in college). Combats were recorded in rounds with To Hit, miss, and damage recorded. In the narrative, "misses" might be described as ineffective hits, building on how the abstraction is presented by Mentzer and I believe is played out in the Mind's Eye.

In this short story, the power of the narrative is brought forward and shown developing in the game play. What if Cadman died in the fight with the Rust Monster? Unlikely, but an outcome certainly in the fight with the skeletons, and certainly the outcome with the goblins. If we're to live in Cadman's head, he would not take the bet, but abandon the adventure to heal. The dramatic moment of Cadman seeing the Aleena's tabard on the goblin builds on his established narrative. Death means this narrative ends after one chapter; or possibly it's not written at all and the blog makes the discussion of the Solo Adventure more clinical. Fair, but far less enjoyable for you.

I'm not trying to create new fiction, but trying to demonstrate how the fiction and story become a natural extension of the game. The dice drive the narrative in a way that develops creative friction in the writing process, something that extemporaneous fiction cannot, or certainly without a lot of practice in the craft.

Posted by caffeinated at 9:53 AM in d10

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

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

Cadman's charge put him on the goblin wearing Aleena's tabard in a seeming instant. The twenty feet closed with only the creak of Cadman's leather bindings and his feet. Cadman only hears his heartbeat. The goblin is on the ground, bleeding out from a vicious gash splitting its neck and shoulder. Cadman has already turned to the second goblin, standing slack jawed, but drawing its sword. Cadman thrusts at the goblin's belly and catches its thick leather armor's bindings. It grunts between teeth clenched in pain, but finishes drawing its weapon.

Whatever shock the goblin felt is gone. It returns Cadman's thrust with its own, catching Cadman in the shoulder. Mail links pop and Cadman feels the point seize in the mail, but push through the gambeson. Cadman pulls back and the goblin readies to parry Cadman's next attack.

Cadman plunges at the goblin, aiming for it's neck. A broken tooth grin spreads across the goblin's face and a taunt hisses through them as the goblin deftly parries the strike and uses Cadman's motion to return the point at Cadman's shoulder. Weakened by the first thrust, Cadman's mail seizes less of the point. The pain would have probably fell a less experienced veteran. Cadman uses the caught sword to turn the goblin's left side toward him to thrust his sword point under the goblin's arm.

It is a death blow that in only seconds drains what color the grey skinned goblin had from his face. Blood pours over Cadman's sword hand. He kicks the goblin away and stumbles back to the wall. Black blood pools around the dead goblins as Cadman inspects the wound on his shoulder. Blood is soaking the gambeson as he pulls away the broken links of mail.

It's a deep wound and it hurts. Cadman unbuckles his pack and pulls around to open it. He bites off the wax seal and cork of the Potion of Healing from the Ulaan priests. It smells of honey and cinnamon. Quaffing the whole thing, he waits for something to happen. The sweet honey and spice lingering on his palate. A warmth sweeps over him. The sharp pain at his shoulder disappears and the dull ache developing in his elbow fades. He gently pulls at the frays of the blood soaked gambeson and sees the wound has closed, fresh pink skin beneath the drying smears of blood.

Cadman has no time to offer a prayer or a praise to Ulaa, angry war shouts from the north in guttural goblin echo into the room. Three goblins charge down the short hall to the north. Cadman stands just in time to parry swings from all three, reversing their positions.

***

Cadman grabs the haft of his sword and punches a goblin square in the mouth. Blood and broken teeth come away. The attack opens Cadman to the others. Together Cadman's armor and weak attacks delivered out of care for hitting their own, the two goblins strike flesh. New cuts, rent links, and torn gambeson cause Cadman to retreat. 

Cadman is surrounded. The injured goblin spits blood and teeth from its mouth and charges. Cadman, ready, parries, moves into attack, misses the gut of a goblin and feels two strikes from the others glance off his armor. The positions reversed again, but the pressing the attack is Cadman's best option. With two hands, one on the hilt, the other low on the blade, Cadman swings hard at the goblin spitting blood. His sword severs the goblin's parrying arm from its shoulder. The attack pushes the goblin into his attacking partners completely disrupting any effectiveness and Cadman shoulders a blow that glances off harmlessly. The goblin drops, clutching the stump gushing blood, pushing away with ever weaker kicks and cries in goblin.

Cadman assesses the remaining two goblins. They turn to him and attack. Swords hitting swords echo in the room, punctuated by grunts and curses. Cadman sees a goblin glance at the still form of the goblin sans arm. Feinting an attack to his right, moves between the two goblins so quickly, they can't turn fast enough to parry Cadman's thrust. Cadman buries his sword in the small of one goblin's back and pulls his sword away in time to parry a response from the last goblin. The parry turns into a sweeping cut across a naked belly. The goblin's gut splits open and it doubles over to collapse on the spilling viscera. 

Silence. Again only his deep breathes and the thump of his heartbeat can be heard. Five goblins dead and three new scars. 

Cadman checks his new cuts. Nothing that won't heal. He walks to his pack. The potion bottle is broken and he guesses he threw it aside as the three others charged into the room. He begins a grisly task: looking for valuables. Goblins rarely have much. They are unwelcome in villages and towns so have little use for coin, but gems are tradable. He first cuts Aleena's tabard front off the goblin wearing it. The back is fouled from lying in the pool of blood surround the body. He folds its food stained fabric and stuffs in his pack. Cleaned it provide some sentimental value to the Ulaan temple, though he considers keeping it himself. Each goblin is carrying a pouch with a roughly round Tiger's Eye, each polished to various quality. Are these the Lost Eyes of the goblins? The goblins have about 100 silver pieces between them and the goblin sans arm has almost 50 gold pieces!

Cadman surveys the mess he's left. Bloody footprints trace the goblins and his fight and his searching. An arm, a loose pile of viscera spreading from the gutted goblin moved in the search, teeth; all surrounded in thickening, sickly smell of death. There unlikely will be anyone to bury these goblins, and goblins may, no will, come for revenge.

Cadman sees a room around the corner to the north from where the three goblins charged. Another long, unlit passage exits east. He can ill afford another fight like this one, but he can assess the size of the Lost Eye goblins. Possibly more are to the north.

He leaves his lantern shuttered as the passage to the north is lit by torches. He approaches the corner and quickly peeks around it. Four goblins are wide eyed and peering down the hall, straining to hear what may be approaching. They lock eyes with Cadman and turn, running into a large room and disappearing just around the edge of Cadman's line of sight. 

Cadman charges after them only to all four have ducked into a doorway and are pulling the door shut behind them. One looks back desperately reaching for something on the floor, but is kicked away to close the door. A heavy bar is slammed down, the thud dulled by the closed door. Cowards. Or just survivors. Cadman must look like a man coming off the shield wall of a close quarter battle. Cadman knows the image. It is terrifying.

The room looks to be quarters. A table, a dozen chairs and piles of furs mark beds on the stone floor. A small pouch has spilled out near the door. This must have been what the goblin was reaching for. 10 silver pieces, 5 gold, a Tiger Eye marble, and a key! Cadman inspects it, turning it over. Is this the key to the room with the bones? Maybe. Just maybe. Cadman kicks the bed furs around a bit, lifting them with his sword, moving items on the table with the same, then goes to the door. Pulling heartily on the loop, it doesn't move. Cadman hears several hisses on the other side of the door. The four goblins are near, but not opening the door for Cadman, possibly will wait hours before coming out. Cadman notes the numbers of beds and walks back to the room where he left his lantern and the dead goblins. 

Perhaps the living Lost Eyes will give them a burial. Or eat them. Cadman does not know. He looks at the dark passage toward the east and stretches the lantern into it. Darkness. Cadman readies his sword and walks a short distance to survey the eastern passage. It turns south in fifty feet. The southern passage seems to stretch as far and fades to pitch, but blue light spills from an archway at the limits of the lantern. Cadman softly walks to the opening.

***

The light spills from a large, empty room, painted in the deepest blue Cadman has seen. He cautiously enters the small passage. Magical light. He has heard of these incantations that emit light from swords, coins, and polished stones affixed to staffs. The strangest aspect of the room is the bright orange relief carved into the far wall. A mouth. Delicately carved. Cadman freezes instantly when the lips of the mouth smile. He turns and steps to leave and runs headlong into an invisible wall, his sword bouncing toward his breastplate with a loud ring immediately silenced by his full body impact into the "wall."

Then the echoing laughter. Cadman forces himself to turn and look at the mouth. Smiling and laughing, it is almost jovial and inviting Cadman back into the room.

"Surprise!," the disembodied mouth states in a deep voice. "You are here for double-or-nothing! Ready or not, here we go. O,T,T,F,F,S,S. What's next in line? If you solve this riddle, your treasure will double. If you fail, it will all disappear. What is your answer?!"

Cadman instinctively reaches for his pack, knowing the coin and gems he's tucked away is still there and he intends no one too take it without a fight. Cadman attempts to step backward. His foot stops on the magical force locking him in the room. Is the mouth going to eat his treasure? Is it going to force him to feed it to him? 

"You must answer, y'know!," bellows the mouth. It is so realistically depicted, even the pink flesh of its mouth and the pearl of the teeth. Cadman runs through the letters in his mind. Seven letters. Most in pairs. Is it a card hand? Cadman curses himself for never playing cards with the other soliders in camp. Seven letters. Eight letters. O,T,T,F,F,S,S... Eight! E! One, Two, Three, Four, Funf, Sechs, Sieben, Eight!

"E!," shouts Cadman. The mouth bellows with laughter.

"Come back again some time!"

Suddenly, Cadman's pack shifts. and having unconsciously leaned against the invisible barrier, he stumbles backward as the barrier disappears and he backpedals into the hall.

Cadman sheds his pack and opens it removing the sacks of coins he stuffed on the bottom. They are literally bulging and threaten to burst. Open one he pours out the silver and gold. Real. Magical riches! Cadman runs back into the room. The mouth only smiles slightly. "Speak! Another riddle Mouth! Double or nothing!" The mouth with only the barest of mood, if it is a mood, frowns and remains silent. Cadman turns to see if he's trapped. The magical wall is gone. He is able to come and go as he pleases and the mouth ignores him. Cadman considers this mouth as he lifts his pack and picks up his lantern. Is it permanent? Is it a device of Bargle's to grow his wealth? Could he return in a day or week or month and bet again? 

***

The south passage take a turn to the west and Cadman hears squeaks. He mentally traces his turns and path to realize he is on the other side of the east passage from the statue room. Rats!

With that curse, a huge rat leaps from the floor and bites his lantern hand. "Gods!," curses Cadman, dropping the lantern. Weighted from the oil, the lantern stands upright and the shutters spring open. Cadman has no time to consider if this a design of the lantern, has he stabs the rat that bit him.

Two more large rats leap at Cadman. He dodges both and swings wildly in attempt to cut one in two. The rats turn to leap and bite at his groin. The cod piece serves its purpose and Cadman cuts the foolish rat from head to tail in a crushing swing.

The last rat, ignorant or uncaring of the deaths of his kin, bites at Cadman's thigh and Cadman's swing knocks it aside with the flat of the blade. He quickly twists his wrist and turns the swing into a thrust that spears the last rat to the floor.

Cadman pulls the cork on his waterskin and pours water over the bloody wound on his hand. Rats are filthy and their bites can fester. This is the last Cadman decides. His sides ache from the hits by the gobbos and this bite is stinging. The mouth has made his haul much better. He gingerly grips the lantern's ring and as he does so the light catches coins scattered about the room. Knelling in the scat and tufts of rat hair, he finds another 100 copper pieces and as much silver! His is truly ready to leave. 

The west passage leads to the statue of Wee Jas. Cadman considers for a moment the key and the locked door. His hand stings from the grip of the lantern and he looks to the late day sun just beyond the opening on the side of the hill. He turns to leave than stops. Setting down his bag and fetches a handful of silver, enough for two gold and sets them in a carved offering bowl under the statue. Wee Jas is Law, though some consider her aspects more neutral. In any case, if her attendants find this silver, maybe they will offer a blessing to the giver from afar.

Fin.

Posted by caffeinated at 9:00 AM in d10