Friday, 6 December 2013

A Sample of 13th Age: The Lich King's Crown

The Lich King has a crown, hidden away in his vault, within his skull fortress, at the centre of his city of the undead, upon his island necropolis, in the middle of the Midland Sea.  If it weren't such an important crown, if there were not so many great reasons to want to steal (or retrieve) it, the wise would simply let it be.

But the crown is not just a crown, not just a symbol of power. It is also the phylactery of one Baron Voth, and with the item in hand, Urquilla may well have some leverage over the Baron, and be able to track down where the legendary White Dragon is.  The barbarian, raised by the Takamak tribe since birth, longs to be able to enact revenge upon the three great dragons who decimated his village.

Of course, Stump wanted the crown, too.  He knew a priestess of the Priestess who would perform a much-needed resurrection, should he obtain the crown.  The cleric didn't want to work alongside the Priestesses underlings, but some times, such things were necessary.  Murdak would probably agree - after all, he had chosen to serve the empire and work against the Lich King instead of the other jobs he would be forced into - many no place for a scholarly wizard of his upbringing.  And Kelly? Well, the elven ranger simply jumped at an opportunity to work against the hated Lich King.

So, together, the four of them set out for Roachdale.  Murdak's research had shown only one individual who might know how to find their way through the maze-like necropolis; a half-orc treasure-seeker by the name of Jont Urner.  Roachdale was the location of his last sighting.

Kelly had been to Roachdale a number of times before, selling furs gained from hunting expeditions.  The village's economy was cattle-based, and they had little opportunity for the warm fur coats Kelly traded with them.  However, when last he visited, Urquilla noted that there was a deep sense of fear in the locals - something in nature was upset.

That something, it turned out, was a living dungeon.  It had erupted through the hillside, and had drawn a swarm of insects around it, blackening out the village with a cloud heavy enough to be easily spotted from a distance.  Stump took Kelly's hastily-crafted torch, and created a reasonable smoke-filled bubble of protection from the creatures, allowing the group to pass through.

The horrid spine of the living dungeon jutted out of the centre of the village, displacing and destroying a few houses and other buildings along the way.  As they stood before it, aware of the horrendous carved skulls, a section of the wall opened, and five demons walked out.  Murdak was about to try diplomacy, but Kelly had no patience for such clearly evil creatures, and quickly brought battle forward; though the ranger stayed at a distance, Kelly's arrows joined the others as they fought back the demons, slaying each and every one of them - and acquiring a silver key.

Finding their way through the maze of tunnels, whilst dodging the few remaining patrols, was no easy task.  Only together did they make it - Kelly used a fine shot and some sturdy rope to allow everyone safe passage across a deep chasm, and Urquilla saved them all from a long, cold swim by smashing through an unstable wall when they thought the only way ahead was into the pool.  As their passage ended in mid-air, Stump's faith revealed an invisible walkway across a giant cavern, and Murdak's magic kept the threatening storm at bay. 

Eventually, they made it to a room in which stood a solitary chest, its lock matching the key Urquilla wore around his foot. The key opened this chest, and within were an array of items - an elven cloak to hide Kelly's presence; an orb of power to replenish Murdak's magic; a potion to ward off the cold for Urquilla, and a vial of healing, straight from the Crusader's own stock for Stump.  Stump and Urquilla also picked up some magical oil, before continuing on their way.

The heart of the living dungeon was a large, circular room, with cages containing prisoners of varying levels of decomposition hanging from the roof.  The group thought they saw one that looked half-orc-ish, but had little time to check it out before Kelly notices spiders and other crawling creatures currying away from one of the doors.  Surely enough, the sound of footsteps followed, as the room grew colder, and the stench of sulphur filled their noses.  A large demon burst into view, and not even Murdak felt it possible to talk this one down!

With a well-placed blast of acid, he caused the demon such pain that handfuls of tick-demons leapt from its body like rats fleeing a sinking ship, and flowed over to those standing a little too close.  Gnawing and sucking, the parasites caused Urquilla enough injury that the vrock took him down - momentarily - the situation all the worse when Stump momentarily lost his ability to heal.
But eventually, the parasites were squashed, the vrock was defeated, and the prisoner rescued.  The only downside was that Jont was dead.  All was not lost - the adventurer had his map on him - literally.  The map to the necropolis was tattooed across the half-orc's back, and with Stump standing guard, no one was going to take a blade to obtain the instructions.  But - that wasn't all; they also needed a compass...made from dragon's teeth.  Fortunately, Murdak knew someone...

There was an adventurer, a demon-touched dragon hunter (semi-retired) by the name of Shez-a-kah.  She was said to know of a brood of white dragons living up on Gorogan's Maw, but she wasn't about to hand out their location to just anyone.  So, whilst Stump stood outside, disapprovingly glaring at anyone who dared to enter the Shadow Port tavern, the others challenged Shez to a game - should they win, she would tell them of the dragons' location; should she win, Murdak would cover her tab. 

Kelly and Urquilla tried to support Murdak's game, with distractions, insights, and stories of old (Shez was most impressed when Urquilla revealed that he was the baby found in the devastated village, ten years post destruction!).  He even tried his own hand at the match, hoping that his time with the Takamak tribe would help him - but it looked like it was a different game altogether, or there were some strange rules added to it since.  Despite their best efforts, Shez proved victorious, and grinned menacingly as Murdak struggled with the obscenely large bill she had racked up.  The only way he could afford to cover his end of the deal was to hand over the precious stone he had found within the dungeon...and so he did.

Moved both by Urquilla's tale of origin, and by Murdak's honesty and loyalty to his bargain, Shez ultimately was convinced to share the position of the dragons, and the party headed up the snow-covered, treacherous climb. 

True to her word, Shez's location proved to be the resting cave of not just a few, but seven white dragon hatchlings.  Fortunately, an older sibling showed up to defend them (poorly, as it turned out), for the hatchling's teeth would not have been enough for the compass.  After rising from the snow (for he had been knocked down again), Urquilla grabbed the large flying beast by the jaw, and, with a tremendous blow, sheared its head right off.  Letting the body fall down into the ravine below, the barbarian held aloft the gory trophy, knowing he was one step closer to finding those that destroyed his village so many years ago.

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