I don’t know if any of you have ever been surfing, but when you are way beyond the backline, and something bumps your leg... let’s just say that your mind tends to go to dark places. Usually it’s a seal. You pray for it to be a seal, beg for it to be a seal. But sometimes it’s not, and in those nano-seconds until you actually know, time slows down, electricity courses through your body, and your heart kicks like a bull in your chest...
But more on this later.
As is too often the case nowadays, you can never get a full murder of PC’s together; real life tends to take care of that somehow. However, I did have two of them for our monthly 1st edition AD&D game. It was Greenslade Fane and Shade DuMond. The Ranger and the Thief. A bit light on the old magic and healing which meant that one false step... and it would be Goodnight Vienna for both of them.
When last we met they were being beaten to crap by a Carrion Crawler. Pyus managed to kill it and we called it a night.
So for the beginning of our second session I sock-puppeted the Cleric character for the first twenty minutes until I could get the story going.
They came to a door, locked, voices on the other side. Shade opened it quietly and snuck into the room. He peered around the dog-leg tunnel and spied a room full of orc (orcs? orcsess?). He went back to inform the rest of the group but on the way out accidentally kicked a rusty helmet against the wall.
One thing leads to another, and an orc comes to investigate. Shade quickly hides in the shadows and backstabs him beyond the pale. Then another one comes along. Shade doesn’t have time to hide the body so the orc lets out a bellow and the shit got real.
Pyus and Greenslade join the ruckus and keep their end of the combat up nicely. Things got a bit hairy when an orc started sniping at them from a dark tunnel up ahead, and Shade took a nasty spear wound to the head. Added to the facial damage he took from the rats yesterday, as Billy Connolly once said,” He had a face like a fekkin’ football. Stitched all ways...”
The combat wound down. Two orcs fled, another was captured. Pyus sacrificed his whiny ass after interrogating him and found out that they had been hired to patrol the tunnels and sewers under Hann; just who this puppet master was was yet to be revealed. During the course of the scuffle a torch had been thrown and had now set a pile of old clothes and blankets on fire. Smoke started to fill the room and the party thought it wise to leave. They headed up the tunnel that the orcs had used in a hurry. Shade in front, Greenslade behind, and Pyus as tail-end Charlie. Due to the smoke billowing from the room, Shade fails to spot the pit trap and goes arse over kettle into a massive storm drain below. Greenslade does the same, but somehow Pyus fails to see this happening because of the smoke and he just keeps on going.
Meanwhile, the other two are bobbing along next to medieval turds and whatever they use for loo-paper (corn husks I presume) in this neck of the woods. They manage to get out of the sewerage and in to a cross walk tunnel that is dry and above the watermark. Just as things look like they may be getting better, they spy the two orcs that had fled from the guardroom, only now they are back with some Ogres to support them. Discretion being what it is, the two players decide, sod it, and head off into the dark. They jump into a massive bore tunnel, that rapidly fills with water and gushes them into the unknown. They get washed down said tunnel for ages using the bio-luminescent fungus on the tunnel walls to show them up from down. They hear a rush, and then whoosh, they are falling into complete darkness. They land in water in complete darkness. Panic sets in. Backpacks and weapons are jettisoned. Luckily they are both lightly armoured or it might well have been over right then.
|Property of SPartan.|
Do you remember the opening scene in Jaws? Where the girl is out swimming in the dark and something tugs/bumps her leg? Squeaky Bum time indeed. Well that’s what happens to the boys. It is amazing what you can do as a DM, when you tap into that primordial fear. The fear of the unknown is so powerful that it is almost a relief when you get to finally see the monster, because then you know what you're dealing with, but up until that point, it could be absolutely anything. It’s all conjecture until you see it’s gibbering form and watch the spittle fly from its gaping maw. That’s why Spielberg holds off as long as possible to reveal the shark... there’s a lesson in that.
They swim madly for what appears to be a lanterns bobbing on a small boat, trying desperately to not think about what might be lurking beneath them...in the dark...in this underground lake. They make it to the gunnels of the boat and pull themselves up dreading that something might just pull them back into the water. It’s always that last few seconds that things are at their most tense...
They sit up and take stock of the situation. They are on a boat, a smugglers boat by the look of things. Three lifeless bodies lie in the pool of lantern light. They check the bodies, all dead, all mooshed and jelly-like, as if they had been constricted, turning the men into to mince pies. They search the boat. There is lots of adventuring gear, ropes, backpacks, grappling hooks, oil, lanterns and of course, iron rations. Shade flips the bodies to see if he recognises any of them. He does. One of them is the guy who got them into this fine mess in the beginning, the guy with the box and the scar running down his face. A quick search reveals a contract on his person between the ‘Crimson Cloaks’ (the dead dudes on the boat they presume) and a merchant by the name of Semaj; that is paying them to hit an old tomb, the tomb of the Dread Knight to be precise. It turns out that Semaj has an ancestor who was killed by the knight whose spirit has been unable to rest until certain requirements are fulfilled. It seems that the Knight was buried with the arms and armour of his fallen foes and one of those is a sword belonging to Semaj Senior, Senior, and Senior. Until the sword is buried with the body of Semaj’s ancestor, his spirit cannot rest. There is also a map.
The players get rowing, slowly, as they have no idea where they are, and eventually spy some eerie blue flames burning in the distance. There is a quay carved out of the rocks below and they tie up the boat.
Suddenly, a huge set of tentacles rise from the inky darkness and attack. Greenslade uses the measley hand-axe and does what he can to defend himself, Shade finds a harpoon. We have an epic Ahab moment on the boat with Shade raising his fist to the darkness swearing revenge on the submerged fiend for all the nightmares this is going to give him.
He hurls the harpoon into the water, and BAM, he actually manages to hit the beast. Luminous ichor floats to the surface of the lake. Meanwhile, Greenslade is hacking and slashing, sending pieces of calamari flying everywhere, while Shade is trying desperately to reel the harpoon back in.
The battle rages, tentacles grope blindly for the players, it is absolute mayhem. The PC’s are tripping over ropes, dropping weapons, being flung by tentacles against the stone walls, things are looking dire. The beast from below rises slowly to the surface... Shade takes aim with his dripping harpoon (Remember he is taking serious ‘to-hit’ penalties because he is a thief, but needs must), eyes, like badly trimmed lanterns glow balefully in the dark, and then, ‘ A big grayish, rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear, was rising slowly and painfully out of the water. As it bulged up and caught the light, it glistened like wet leather.” Apologies to Mr Wells.
Shade drew his arm back, took careful aim, and with a snap of the wrist, missed entirely. Fuck. Now what I could see them thinking.
Now what indeed. Greenslade threw his hand-axe, and miracle of miracles, he actually hits it in the eye sending it back beneath the surface of the lake allowing them to escape up a set of stairs that have been carved into the cliff side.
All in all, a fun little encounter was had by all, because (a). There was an element of fear emanating from them, and (b) because I managed to do that to them. Well, actually, no. I didn't. In fact, they did that to themselves...I just got to watch.
Part one available here.
Part one available here.