9 April 2017

Averaigne campaign - session 34

[The story so far]

Session 34 - Stone spears and eggs
The bats swirled around their heads, diving and biting at them. Tybalt was face down in the sewage and not moving but, despite his shield held above him, Dumnorix was struggling to force his way through the flock to get to his aid. It looked bleak as the party struggled to find an effective response.
The sudden swirl of flame through the fitful darkness (Montagne was unable to keep the lantern steady while he swung his mace at the bats) was greeted first with relief...

... then with chagrin as they realised that their saviour was a very cocky and swaggering JB (the teenage FGR gang member who'd shot both clerics) brandishing a flaming tknot of oil-soaked rope on the end of a chain. A whole slew of mocking, arrogant, and borderline blasphemous ("The heathen!" - Dumnorix) self-aggrandisement poured forth from JB's sneering lips. He'd been sent along by the Friends of the Green Rose to make sure the party went the right way. "In the sewers, without even any flippin' bat scarers! Bunch o' flippin' amateurs. Y'nearly got your short-arse killed already, and yer practically still in sight of the river."

This lack of concern for Tybalt, who was having sewage poured out of his stomach and a healing potion poured in, as well as the "short" joke, was too much for Gwen. She darted after the strutting young thug and yanked at his woollen hose, snapping the points holding them up on one side. His teenage nature re-emerged with a cry of anger and embarrassment at this slight on his dignity and he hurried off, splashing through the muck, and complaining bitterly at their ingratitude and the price they'd pay. He was soon out of sight, but not earshot, around the next sharp bend in the tunnel.

"I just can't stand arrogant children," shrugged Gwen. "He did have it coming," agreed Nausicaa and Dumnorix. Only Montagne was unimpressed - a childhood memory of public shame resurfacing, perhaps? Before they could decide whether Gwen was right or wrong, a strangled scream followed by a splash came from up ahead - from the direction JB had stomped off in!

With concern, they hurried towards the sound, weapons ready and shields high, Dumnorix at the back carrying Tybalt. JB was lying face up in the sewage, a spear shaft sticking up out of his chest like the mast of a macabre river-barque. Under shelter of shields held out in the direction the spear seemed to have come from, the others hauled the boy out of the mire. He was dead; the wicked but primitive spear head (was it really made from knapped stone rather than metal?!) had punched right through his scrawny body making such a mess of his innards that there was nothing either cleric could do for him.

Dumnorix snapped the spear so it could be removed. Nausicaa wrapped the body in the hide cloak she had found in the temple of Ferrus, heaved it out of the muck to one side of the sewer, and then laid the iron symbol of the god of the soul's crossing on JB's chest. Montagne gave a grunt of approval from his place in the shield wall when he saw this; he blamed Gwen's prank for JB's death and said so bluntly. It took Oiseau's intervention to stop the disagreement from causing a rift in the group - "Who uses stone spears? Is it the group the FGR want us to fight?"

Lantern and shields high the party inched their way forward, following the only way they could; the main sewer tunnel. They hadn't gone much more than, say, a good spear throw, when a natural cave-like fissure on their left caught the eye of several party members. An odd, pale blue glow seemed to emanating from it...

Easing their way into the cavern beyond, they found themselves in a shallow pool of sewage that had seeped through from the main sewer, but which soon sloped up to dry land. Set against the base of the cave wall, at approximately eight feet intervals, were strange rocks that were the source of the glow. About a foot across, each irregular boulder emitted a gentle, cool light.

"Not obviously magical," declared Dumnorix, while Gwen the dwarf thought that, "If they weren't so regularly placed I'd have said it was cave-lichen. That can glow sometimes." When Nausicaa touched one of the rocks, whatever was glowing wiped off and stopped glowing, leaving a dark patch on the stone.

Keeping a firm grasp on their weapons, the party spread out into a rough line and made their way through the pool and up onto dry land. Up ahead, in the gloom, the sound of running water was clear. With the aid of their torch and a smidgeon more boldness, they found that water (fresh water!) was pouring steadily out through an array of tiny fissures in the rock and into a pool whose edges had obviously been artificially raised. The pool was brim-full and overflowed gently but continuously into the sewage. Nausicaa sidled up to the edge and peered in. "There's a whole load of... rocks? in the bottom." She leaned forward and, with the tip of her sword, prodded one of the rocks. "I think they're eggs!"

All at once there was a great threatening hiss of anger from the shadows, like a sailcloth tearing in two from yardarm to deck, and out stepped a line of angry grey-green humanoid reptiles standing on their hind legs, grasping stone-tipped spears in their front legs/arms, twitching their tales abruptly, and snapping at the air with crocodile-like jaws. Lizardfolk!

Stepping away and bunching together, the party prepared for battle but made certain not to make any sudden or aggressive moves. "We have no quarrel with you," promised Montagne. "We did not mean to intrude!" The response from the lizardfolk was equally wary; their spears were prodded towards the party, but they did not advance more than a pace towards them. A standoff.

"Do any of you speak Averaignian? Dveorgizh? Aelfarren?" No response except the clattering of jaws and guttural hissing - and that was all three languages the party had between them. Montagne was about to fall back on the standard approach of speaking loudly and slowly, when a smaller lizard pushed forward. He (how does one tell gender of a bipedal lizard?) was merely six feet tall, barely to the shoulders of his fellows, and albino, but had an aura of authority. A shaman, perhaps? His white scales caught the glow from the rocks and the lantern still held aloft by Oiseau, showing clearly the sets of parallel lines in paint, or mud, or maybe a type of tattoo, that were striped in sets of three across his chest and arms, seemingly at random. Around his wrists, unlike the others who had no clothing or adornment of any kind, were heavy iron bracelets.

"Speak, soft-skins, why do you bring fire and sword to our nesting pool?" So this one did speak Averaignian, and he wasn't happy, but the negotiations could begin. With more diplomacy and tact than he normally showed, Montagne, ably assisted by Nausicaa, was able to convince the lizardfolk that they meant no harm to the eggs, that it had been a mistake, that they were hunting for other "soft-skins", that they'd like to leave now, please, in peace. The suggestion that "the runts be given as food for the hatchlings; the weak must serve the strong" was firmly but politely refused, much to Gwen and Tybalt's relief. They also cleared up why JB had been killed - he was an egg thief!

A deal was offered. The albino explained that "our hatching" had had a hatchling taken from them many hibernations previously, that a dream had brought their hatching to Corcelle to honour their egg-debt to this lost hatchling and reclaim it. They had failed, though, finding only a female soft-skin who had the scent of a hatchling. This had confused them but they had been driven off before they could understand by other soft-skins who had put on scales of metal (here there was an aside to the other lizards who laughed and tapped their own scales mockingly) and taken up wapons, not because of an egg-debt, but over pieces of shiny metal that had no purpose. This last was said with distaste as if discussing murderous perversions. And the deal? Well, the party could live, if they helped retrieve the soft-skin hatchling. They were given three nights to fulfil their promise (their "egg-pact") with the FGR, but then they must return to the lizards or be oathbreakers and suffer that fate. To help them with any other lizardfolk encounters, the albino gave them one of his metal bracelets ("Oh by my mother's beard!" exclaimed Gwen. "That Montfort lady! She had something weird going on, and she kept scratching at her wrists for her missing bracelets. Do you think...." She stopped talking when the rest of them gave her a look of disappointment that she'd only just made the connection.)

Relief. Agreement to the deal. And backing slowly away...

As they did so, Nausicaa spotted one of the lizards spit on his claws and wipe them on a rock, which duly started to glow slightly. "Ewww, lizard spit. That's disgusting - and I put my hand on that"!

Once back into the sewer, they headed onwards briskly as Tybalt fretted about how much time before he was back on the lizardfolk menu. They soon found a side passage that was easily defended and set up camp for the night, trying not to worry about having two quests set for them by folk who seemed quite happy to kill them if they failed...

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