While the fight itself hadn’t been too nasty, Mel had taken a lot of damage so Maul healed her up. We then spent a “quiet” night, quiet being except for the snoring of Gragnog in the corner. His snores occasionally brought slates down but other than that rattle, it was peaceful. He also ate a lot of dead Hobgoblins.
Al worked out that if we go back to the watchtower and let them know the giant is there, then the cover of “oh, so you’re surveying the area?” is sort of blown. We used a couple of beams to make a splint for him.
“But then he could plant them and climb up!”
So we moved all the Hobgoblin bodies close by the giant, so he didn’t starve in our absence. And our spare flatgoat. Of which there was a surprising amount.
Mel: “Be good.”
Gr: “OK. You be careful of those trolls.”
All: “We will.”
Denerik mentioned that what we are about to face are Rock Trolls, which we haven’t met before. The “burn the bastards” trick doesn’t work on them, but she wasn’t certain what does, although she was pretty sure acid would be good. At this, I beamed at Al. Sunlight would hurt them but we didn’t have any way to carry sunlight with us.
I remembered that Roderick has a once-per-day scare spell, and “Scent”. Which of course started the party on loads of “My dog smells terrible!”. Then we realised – Dwarves have to put up with 50 years of Dwarvish Dad jokes until they move out of home! Poor things. There ought to be a law against it.
Denerik started muttering about “_aren’t we supposed to be checking the tunnels out?”_ I think she was getting a little impatient, or even annoyed at the comments about Dwarvish Dad jokes. Besides, Roderick was all enthusiastic about killing trolls. I allowed that I would be doing a lot of hiding. So we worked out our marching order, with Maul and Denerik up the front, then Al, me, then Mel. I won’t tell you what Mel was saying – it’s most unbecoming and I definitely wasn’t blushing or anything.
We went on for a while with Roderick snuffling a fair bit. “Big smelly thing!”
“Smells like rock?”
“EVERYTHING smells like rock”
The passageway started very narrow, then widen out. Maul cast light on a pebble which Mel stuck on the front of the shield.
Then Mel noticed that one of the rocks up ahead looks symmetrical. TOO symmetrical.
And then it moved.
Maul went to enlarge Mel to Massive and Al set to give her Bull Strength. I considered getting different sorts of bladders. No, wait – it wasn’t like that. I considered that there needed to be different sorts of containers for the different liquids I carry. This, as I loaded up the crossbow to try to get a shot off before it noticed us.
Well, um – so long as it didn’t hear the sound of the bolt bouncing off Denerik’s helmet, we should be fine.
Mel hunkered down behind her shield as Maul and Al cast the spells on her, but then the troll charged at us, obviously attempting to overrun her.
With that, it knocked Mel down, and likewise Denerik. Then me. Then Al, then Maul. Crap. We were all flat on the ground. Al lost the spell she was casting. But brave Maul realised that if she stood up, the troll would go for her and give the rest of us a chance to regain our feet. And so she did, copping a rather nasty blow in the process. As the creature drew back for another blow, she took the chance to cast the Bull Strength on Mel. I scrambled to my feet, stepped back and fired the crossbow at him. Hit! Al did likewise, and her acid ray splattered on the beast with a satisfying sizzle. So glad that that stuff worked – I think we would have been stuffed if it didn’t.
Trolly McTrollface then roared at Maul, which shook her to her core! Denerik was unaffected by this display of prowess, though, and fired away. Badly. Back at me.* I AM NOT A TROLL!*
Maul tried to steady herself, but her hands shook as she put the spell together, and it fizzled into nothing. I stepped even further back but my arm twinged as I fired and I missed. And could see my previous wound on it healing automatically. Bugger.
But Mel hit hard as well, bring the creature’s attention on her. TmcT went for Mel again, and bit her. Its claws got tangled in each other though. I couldn’t help but notice that its teeth were shiny purple – probably worth a bit! Denerik also shot at it, and did well, while Maul stepped back a little, out from its reach, and threw a “Shatter” spell – which left the creature weeping loose crystaline rocks off left and centre. I fired again, but my bolt bounced off the ceiling just beside its head. Mel’s “thwack” rang around the cavern, then she suddenly grew so large! And Roderick – not so much “wolfhound” as “Grizzly Bear Sword”
Al’s acid hit again. Just a little damage, but every bit counts. And it tried to overrun us again, as Mel whacked hard again with Roderick. Maul was well bowled over, and the beast went straight for Al and I and stopped when it had knocked us to the ground once more and was standing on us.
Can I just mention here that being a troll’s footrest is not a very comfortable position?
Maul cried something to Nimbus (I think it was “STUFF THIS FOR A JOKE!”) and the troll lost interest in her. And in a great deal more – I extricated myself from the limbs of the creature, and used its slight confusion to stagger as far away from it as I could, as Roderick yapped and connected once more.
And it dropped!
Al dived on it and started to spray acid from one side to the other. We reduced the beast to a sticky rocky sludge then dragged its remains back to Gragnog’s cave to be dealt with any time it moved. Gragnog loves a nice bit of troll for a snack – I think we’ve made a good friend in that giant. Alas, Mel shrank down, with a moan of disappointment. She was enjoying being big. And I souvenired a couple of teeth for my collection (and Lady Elamnea)
We headed back to the cave, and to the troll’s lair. It didn’t have a lot – mainly the gnawed bones of humanoids, probably hobgoblins. At least this means there weren’t any dwarves heading down this way regularly. 20gp in jewellery and small coins were donated to party loot, and the teeth would be worth more.
Maul: “What – the troll had grills?”
Denerik led the way, making marks as she went to make sure we could find our way back. The area we were in was not natural but had been worked, and Denerik makes rude comments about trolls. The nails are rusty, and some of the supports seemed precarious, making moaning noises as we went on.
Then she stopped, and held her hands up to stop us too. A pause, and then…
And she turned and ran towards us.
“AL! DEAL WITH IT!”
Something coming towards us, like a crawling insect with long antennae, about dog sized. It didn’t look too dangerous, but I was still being cautious (and I trust Denerik. If something this big scares her, it must be nasty). I dived behind a rock, and readied the crossbow. It missed me, spotted Mel and went for her. Al threw a Magic Missile which seemed to hurt it quite a lot. But it still went for Mel, and hit her – and her armour was suddenly covered in rust! Mel sheathed Roderick, to save him, despite his barking protests, but in doing that, it left her open to another attack. The creature hit Mel again …
… and her armour fell off…
And she ran.
Maul threw a soundblast at it, stunning the creature. And I hit it beautifully from behind, and kill it dead. There was a LOT of swearing, and I thanked whatever gods are keeping an eye on me that I was able to hide from it. There is NO WAY I’m losing this Mithril Shirt. Do you know how long it took to find underwear that matched it? Sheesh.
This, though, left Mel armourless, so we trudged back to Gragnog’s cave to scavenge what we could from the dead Hobgoblins’ armour. We scavenged enough studded leather to cover Maul and Mel, and grabbed a couple of basic weapons to use against the beasts. I wrapped the smelly Hobgoblin rags around myself to protect the Mithril from the bastards. And Gragnog, pleased to see us again, was sad that we hadn’t brought him a dead rust monster to eat. Apparently they’re a delicacy. We shall have to see what we can do.
As we headed back down, Denerik talked of an iron ore vein down here, which is probably what they were after. And then we spotted a hole that’s probably their hole. I stripped down to silk undies and, leading with my goblin-dagger – crawled in.
TWO MORE FUCKERS INSIDE
They saw me, I wriggled out as fast as I could, then Al threw in a flaming sphere. Snap! Crackle! Pop!
“Rust monsters were invented by 1st edition DMs to give their players a hard time.”
“So today we’ve dealt with trolls and griefers?”
“And we dealt with them by a flame war.”
I redressed, but still wrapped the rags around my shirt. No point in taking chances.
As we continued, Denerik and I spotted that the mine was not in good condition. The wood props were groaning in a very alarming manner. I sneezed, and a bit of dust came down – from then on we tried to be very very quiet. We got past it and into a better quality area. Then we came to natural caves, Denerik made marks every now and then, saying “oh, we need to go in this direction”. I put a tiny secret mark under a distinctive rock, in case anyone tried to bugger with the marks on the walls. It has been known…
There were some nasty bits with narrow spaces. Then Denerik stopped, put her finger to her lips, and pointed to mushrooms growing on the nearby walls.
Edible cave mushroom – we were near the mushroom fields.
Maul extinguished her light, and after a couple of minutes we could see a very faint glow in the distance, and hear noises – gruff speech, but hard to tell what type. It was time for the thief to do his stuff.
Denerik got out her rope. I was expecting her to tie it around me, but she just pointed it in my direction and it tied itself! Wow! Sadly, it is not for sale, nor could I find one to buy in the Tower, as they are a special Dwarven item that is passed down the family. But such a nice rope! Al used the wand, and I wrapped my Elven cloak tight around me, and snuck up through the cavern until it opened out.
Into a big mushroom farm – obviously the Lower Mushroom Field of our map. There were 15 dirty chained dwarves there, working on the mushrooms. Two guards with crossbows were wandering up and down, while two of the dodgy undead ones were standing dead still. One of prisoners was washing mushrooms at a trough at the side. Many of the dwarves looked injured, and some – oh how shall I tell Denerik? Some had had their beards cut off.
I sneaked back, gestured to the others, and pulled them even further back. There was no way I was letting any noise through to that room, and I was worried about how Denerik would react. Then the suspicious gits checked to make sure it’s me by asking me my donkey’s name. Blighters. My reaction assured them they had the real Cogs. I told them what I had seen, and Denerik looked as upset as I have ever seen a Dwarf look. I drew the map on the floor, and we discussed a plan.
We agreed that we can’t take them all on, not even at our most buffed and vicious (although I reckon Al would take out most if we tried). And we couldn’t do it without the chance of one escaping back to the Abbey and alerting the rest. And there must be more than just these four.
So I’ll sneak back in, get to the trough, hide and ask the washing guy questions.
1. How many prisoners in whole complex.
2. How many guards
3. Who is in charge
4. Are the gates in the same configuration as they were before – 0110 or 1001?
5. Is Rorick, Denerik’s brother, still alive, and is he a prisoner or guard?
I went in without the rope, because they’d see it if I did. Invisibled and Cloaked, I waited until the moving guard closest to my end of the cavern moved away from the side I needed to go along. I snuck around, got to the trough, and spoke to the guy washing mushrooms there.
“Master Abbot sent us. Try not to look surprised.”
He nodded slightly
“We can’t rescue you this time, but we will be reporting back. I need to ask some questions.”
“Ask,” he muttered.
And the answers were:
1) “As much again as is here.” (In other words, about 30 all up)
“No, not just here – the whole complex.”
“Oh – seventy or so.”
3) Renda, Torva and Dern. (Elder Torva Songteller, Scrivener: in charge of the library and research; Elder Renda Goblingrinder, Master of the Acolytes: in charge of training and discipline for the acolytes; and Elder Dern Goblingrinder, Master of the Works: in charge of the fortress’s machinery and of engineering.)
4) The front gate is always kept down now.
5) Prisoner, other work detail. (Oh thank goodness. Denerik will be pleased.)
I asked him to pass on to Rorick that his sister is helping, cares very much for him, and to pass on around the prisoners that they are working on this up top.
Then his eyes widened.
The invisibility had worn off. No way that was five minutes!
He started throwing mushroom stalks on me.
“How long until you finish for the day?”
“About two hours”
“Bugger. Any chance you could create a diversion?”
“Not at all. Just hide and be quiet.”
So I hid and waited.
With no way to get info back to the party.
I need to train me some mice.
I was getting pretty cold and miserable, with icy water slopping on me. Then I heard guards.
" … all right you bastards – let’s go. Load it up "
I made a hole so I could see under the trough – I could see movement, and hear carts creaking and chains jingling. I waited until I was pretty sure that they’d all moved out. Then I took my time moving to end of trough – I looked to make sure no unpleasant surprises had been left for me, but there was no sign of the undead ones. So I made my way to the wall and quietly made my way out.
The others had been worrying like crazy. Mel thought I must have been captured, but the lack of noise (and of search parties down the crack) meant I must have been trapped somehow, and they had decided (wisely) to wait instead. But as I came up, covered in dung and mushroom bits, they still looked pleased to see me, if only at a distance. Al cast a Prestidigitation on me – twice – to get most of the mushroomy bits off, and I told others what I did. Denerik was relieved to hear about her brother , but thought I shouldn’t have told my informant to tell the others because we don’t know who’s an informant. Personally, I reckon that after all this time, they’d be able to tell.
We headed back to the exit, grabbing crispy rust monster for Gragnog. Talk about BFFS! We told him we’d be getting some Dwarves, but he wasn’t to let any come through from the hole we’d come from. He was confused, poor lad, but hopefully he’ll understand.
At the watchtower, the old guy asked how it all went. We told him about Gragnog, and I was about to say something of the Bad Dwarves, but I realised just in time (and just as Denerik stomped on my foot). I changed it to “Smegging Rust Monsters”, which the old guy nodded at and said that they’d been around for years. Worse than cockroaches, I reckon.
With that, we headed back to the Tower, and asked Denerik to pass an anonymous note to Master Abbott, so that the information can be disassociated from us. Our story was that we had been heading home, but ran into a rust monster above ground, and that poor Mel had copped it (as indeed she had). Thus, we headed to the armourer, where Mel got measured up for and paid for a lovely shiny set of full plate. The armourer suggested Mithril, which got a sigh of longing from Mel, and she has promised that when she can afford a set, she will come and see him. She also gave him her contact details so that he could send word of anything she might be interested in.
Maul also invested in an armour upgrade, which I think she fully deserved. I asked around about possible messaging systems, but I’m starting to think this might be something for druids or the Bestiary or similar. Then Denerik showed up (what a coincidence! Although this is her uncle’s place), and invited us to dinner.
I couldn’t put it off any longer. I headed for the appropriate area of town, and invested in a large tub of hot water, a lovely bar of violet-scented soap and a gloriously fluffy towel. It was definitely well-past-bathtime.
We arrived in our good, clean clothes, to dinner, and were strangely not surprised by the appearance of Master Abbott.
“I understand you found some more serious information about the Monastery,” he said to open the discussion. “We agree that they probably only open the bottom door long enough to get work parties in. So we need to work out a way to get a large force in the top, as we’d never get them all through the lower tunnels. I offer you the resources of the Tower, in collaboration with myself and the Council, to work out a way we can get into the Abbey and save those trapped there.”
Ideas flew thick and fast. “We will assemble force up top. Could you get a force in through the bottom, and take control of one of the gatehouses?”
“Do you have a wizard who can project a field of invisibility around a small force? And braces for the rocks?”
“Perhaps if you could think about what you might need? I think, with the state of the prisoners, we should move soon.”
And dinner was not flatgoat. All in all, it was a good evening.