The same trio met with me at the Reaper Game Store as had met the last time: Dallas, playing Nallia (elf CLC/RGR) and Barlyn (dwarf CLC); Don, playing Barton (half-elf M-U/THF); and Steven, playing Alex (half-elf FTR/THF-Acrobat) and Cain (human M-U). We were therefore able to pick up right where we had left off.
Where we had left off had been the party slowly withdrawing from the cave of Azufullalaz, a blue dragon who was testy because a piece of her property had previously been stolen (and not by our heroes). At this point, although they had made a tentative deal to seek out her property (a rod of some sort made of gold) they determined that, because as a blue dragon she was evil, she had to go. The group was somewhat low on spells, but concluded that as the dragon herself had been in a fight previously (in which she had clearly used her breath weapon at least once) they would be better off not giving her a chance to renew her full capabilities, so they chose not to rest and renew their own spells. This is a trade-off that has no clear right answer, but in this case it worked.
They crafted a somewhat complex plan involving using the prisoners they had taken from the pirate band as a distraction. These prisoners consisted of two fighters, a female assassin, and Hooja, a barbarian. In an effort to secure the greatest cooperation, Barton used his charm person spell on Hooja. Following his spell, Barton appealed to Hooja’s natural sense of vanity by asking whether he was courageous enough to taunt a dragon. In the process of this discussion, Hooja revealed that he was not a pirate per se, but had been recruited by this particular band not long previously, as he had recently fled his own tribe after they had been taken over by a particularly nasty character named Terkoz. [Note: Barton was extremely careful and circumspect in the way he spoke with Hooja through the entire process, and as a result when the spell was lifted Hooja didn’t realize he had been ensorcelled, so there were no unfortunate consequences as there could easily have been.] Without using magic the group put the same proposition to the remaining prisoners, offering them their freedom in exchange for helping to taunt the dragon. They all agreed (although the assassin was planning to bolt immediately and to hell with anybody’s plans.)
The group then positioned Cain and Barton across the ravine from the opening to Azufullalaz’ cave, planning to use enlarge to put an avalanche on her, while the rest of the group hid just behind the tree line, with Nallia and Barlyn prepared to fire at the dragon when she came out, and Alex hoping he could position himself for a backstab. Although the group later commented that it can be a mistake to do your planning in front of the DM, Azufullalaz’ tactics had already been determined — and were based on the fact that the party didn’t know there was a back door to her cave. As a result, when the taunting began, instead of coming out the entrance all in a rage, the dragon looked outside, saw the taunters, and then proceeded to roll a huge boulder across the entrance (locking the door before she left, as it were.) She then climbed up a vertical shaft, emerged, and was airborne before they could do anything about it. The arrows began to fly, so she came down and used her final breath weapon against Nallia and Barlyn. They survived this attack, and were prepared with a grappling arrow tied to a tree, which Nallia fired successfully. Unfortunately, the tree had been fried by the lightning breath of the dragon, so a large piece easily snapped off. At that point one of the mages enlarged it (using the spell that had been prepared for their avalanche attempt) and the dragon, who had been planning to swing the log around into her tormentors, decided to land and deal with them on the ground. Unfortunately for her, at that point she ran headlong into two wyvern watch spells and failed her save against one of them, which left her paralyzed on the ground, and gave Alex the perfect opportunity to backstab her. Azufullalaz did not survive for one more minute, and soon enough she had been butchered, skinned, and had various internal organs removed (and the heart eaten by Nallia and Hooja.)
The party then searched for the rear entrance to her cave and found a vertical shaft easily enough. The shaft led directly into her hoard room, where a goodly amount of gold, some valuable gems and jewelry, and a magic ring and helm were discovered. In addition, the group discovered a small patch of skin (apparently scraped against the side of the cave) containing a number of very coarse and curly brown and black hairs. [It was to be discovered later that this was the skin of the halfling — a currently deceased fellow named Goflee Stickyfingers — who had stolen the “property” several months previously.) It was a group of adventurers almost insufferably pleased with themselves who camped out in the dragon cave, ate dragon meat, discussed what to do with various parts of dragon anatomy, and looted the dragon’s hoard prior to setting off on the trail back to Jamsin.
On the trail back to Jamsin they encountered the second deadly lady, in this case the ever-popular gynosphinx. [Note: i like to roll for random encounters using the tables in the 1e DMG, and generally just keep rolling until I find something appropriate. This has led to players commenting that sometimes the random encounters are more dangerous than the planned ones. I don’t mind that. This gynosphinx — Stephanie by name — was one such.] Rather than fight, however, she preferred to talk, and ended up beginning a contest of riddles with the group. She went first:
“I wear a red coat and have a stone in my throat. What am I?” [See answer at the end of this entry.]
The group was stumped with this one, but being a jolly well-fed gynosphinx, she asked for a riddle in return:
“Thirty horses in two columns, they crush and stomp but nowhere go. What are they?” [See answer below.]
This one stumped the sphinx, so she began a new round:
“Aethelstan has four daughters. Each daughter has a brother. How many children does Aethelstan have?”
They got this riddle successfully, and the sphinx let them pass without incident [Note: The group got full experience for this encounter, because they were able to best the sphinx in her preferred method. Kudos to noncombat approaches from time to time!]
Upon arriving in Jamsin, however, there was extremely bad news: The Razorwind had been attacked in their absence by two ships that had sailed into the harbor at night, and its upper structures burned. None of the crew was slain, although one Marine was unconscious and required help from the clerics to heal him. Monophos, the ship master, and Lamitha, the mate, had organized the defenses and damage control, but it was going to cost considerable time and money to repair the damage, and the pirates had sailed off into the night, leaving no prisoners. Fortunately, there was a cantankerous old magic-user in town available to train Cain, who had advanced a level, and due to obtaining the dragon’s hoard the group had sufficient cash for training expenses and ship repairs. [Note: When a party gets a dragon hoard they might expect to have something happen that takes some of it away!] At this point they decided to explore inland some more, and to search for the prisoners they had released, as they felt these individuals might have had something to do with the attack upon their ship, and also to search for Terkoz and see if they could find the golden rod the dragon had been on about, and also possibly to find the pirates’ base; previous interrogation of the prisoners had indicated the existence of a pirate base somewhere east of Jamsin on the south coast of Nabor.
After setting out the group traveled for several days before encountering anything interesting, and the interesting thing was a falcon that paced them for most of a day. In the evening the falcon’s purposes became clear, when the group was ambushed by Terkoz himself and a number of Terkoz’ minions. A melee ensued, and the clerics held several of their opponents. At this point the opponents’ nature became clear: Two of the three of them changed form into animals and continued to attack. In fact, Terkoz’ band consisted, with one exception, of lycanthropes, with Terkoz himself a were-smileodon. In addition there were a were-tiger, a were-komodo lizard, a were bear, and a were-gorilla, in addition to the were-falcon (who was the group’s shaman and who, unknown to the party, successfully cast a pray spell at the beginning of the melee.) As the melee wore on Nallia and Barlyn both took bites from lycanthropes, but Terkoz and his band were having the worst of it, despite being able to get in some healing anytime they changed form. In addition, an invisible Barton sneaked around behind Terkoz and managed to filch the golden rod away from him!
Suddenly, a voice like that of an angel shouted/sang “STOP RIGHT THERE!” and brought the entire melee to a halt. Everyone turned to see a completely nude woman running toward them out of the forest, and she must have had a Comeliness score of 22 or more! As she approached all the characters had to attempt to resist her charm, and only Alex and Nallia succeeded. She demanded the return of the golden rod to her, and Barton immediately gave it over to her. At that point Nallia, who, along with Alex had been pretending to be under the woman’s sway, began to attack her, but Alex launched a flying tackle to stop her — and in the process prove his bona fides to the woman. The woman herself decided that Nallia needed to kiss and make up with her, but as she approached Nallia for the kiss, Nallia and Alex both attacked, both hit, both crit’ed, and then she died. As she died, she muttered “Thank you. I’ve been on this stupid plane waiting to perform the last service for two thousand years, and now dying makes it over. I’m sick of this place.” [Note: Yes, the woman in question was a succubus, and the dying words were a clue. And no, she isn’t really dead, just banished back to the Abyss.]
With her departure Terkoz and his group recovered from their own charm and discovered that they had essentially lost some three months out of their lives. They remained lycanthropes, however, as was demonstrated in some tests, and agreed to go off and live by themselves away from their tribe. (It is possible that they will not do so forever, though, as there are 5 men and only one woman….)
Hooja is at the point of deciding whether to return permanently to his tribe, with his exile no longer in effect, but he might stay with the party. And it remains to be seen whether there were any……permanent effects from the bites Nallia and Barlyn took from Terkoz’ minions.
Answers to the riddles:
5 (bear in mind that if you have four daughters and each one has A brother, then since they are all sisters they will all share the same brother.)
XP awards: 2000 xp each to Alex, Nallia, Cain, and Barlyn. 2200 to Barton (awarded for role playing with the spell he cast on Hooja and during the encounter with the succubus) and 1000 each for the NPC’s, Robert the Red and Hooja (standard henchman xp),