Friday, January 12, 2018

Thracia - an ACKS Campaign

[Adventure report from a new campaign.]

     Dave [Thief], the somewhat scapegrace second son of the Count of Mount Haemus [comes Haemimontus], accompanied by his bodyguard Corwin [Fighter] and his secretary Goris [Venturer] were sent to retrieve the Rhododendron Amulet by his father.  Along the way the encountered Brother Hendel the Healer [Cleric], who had been dispatched to the same village to investigate reports that the local Temple of Nature's Justice had been taken over by some frog faced cultists calling themselves the Temple of Justice Everywhere. 
     As they approached the village, thunder rumbled regularly in the distance.  Corwin considered that in his experience it was natural, not gunfire.  Nearer, they could see lightening stabbing down ahead.  Whatever was being struck was hidden by a hill and woods on the other side of the village itself.  Interrogating the first yokel they encountered, Dave learned that it was the Lightning Tower down on the coast, and that the it had been this way for decades.  Incredulous that no one had investigated, he pressed the yokel, who responded defensively that they made sure to keep the cattle away from it.

     Getting directions from the yokel, they went down the road to the manor, having decided that Dave's errand would take priority over Brother Hendel's.  Along the way they passed the Temple and had a clear view of the Lightning Tower and of the four iron massive iron spikes around it.
     Walking boldly up to the front door of the manor, they were derailed by the sight of three corpses leaning against the wall.  Approaching cautiously, having heard tales of skeletons and zombies, they determined that one of them was a peddler Brother Hendel had known to sell healing herbs in Hadrianoplis.  They could not determine the cause of death based on inspection.
     Leaving the corpses, they rang the bell, and stayed off balance when they came in and saw that the butler was the ghost of a balrog [ed.  Gotta love these pre-cease and desist lawsuit adventures].  When they questioned him about the corpses outside, he responded that he thought the gardener had already taken care of them, but that he would follow up.  
     The confusion continued when Dave asked for Sir Rankling as directed and the butler asked in response "His picture or his spirit, my lord?"  Choosing the spirit they were given directions to another room.  However a nasty battle with twelve skeletons in the first room they needed to cross room left Brother Hendel and to a lesser extent Corwin, too wounded to continue, so they returned to the village.

     Engaging rooms at the White Horsed Sleigh, they went in search of Arnthora, the dispossessed priestess.  In her pokey little room, crammed with the furnishings she had been able to retrieve at the Temple,  she told Brother Hendel of being forced out by the cultists and that their influence was growing in the village.  She had little to offer on the Lightning Tower and opined that if they could handle the cultists, they could handle anything in the manor.  Whether or not they could handle either was an open question.  She was well aware of Bertalan the butler and didn't seem to see anything amiss, just that the manor had always been that way.  And by the way Sir Rankling was the current owner's great-great-grand uncle and had been dead for some time, but his picture could answer questions about the manor.  She also warned them not to look at the other portraits in the manor. 
     Over supper at the inn, Corwin, Goris & Brother Hendel observed two people enter and sit down with a couple of locals at another table.  The newcomers had green faces and extremely wide mouths.  Inferring that these were some of the cultists, Corwin and Brother Hendel went to get Dave, who was dining in his private room.  Corwin remarking that the green was tattooing.  Before they returned, the other party got up and left.  Goris moved to intercept the locals, pretending that he was here to inquire into some tax irregularities.  This gave him and earful about the ruinous assessments from the mayor and an appointment to meet the next morning to go over the books.

     While the others sold four of the goblets they had recovered at the manor, Goris went over the books and earned contempt for not only failing to find anything; but for not asking for a bribe either.  Brother Hendel passed him on the way out; and tried some very unsubtle intimidation on the mayor.  After a quick meeting with Arnthora, who warned Brother Hendel to leave town after he recounted his visit with the mayor, they went back to the manor - this time choosing to cut across the fields, rather than going close to the Temple.  That idea seemed to work out until they crossed through a narrow woodlot and discovered that the ground was torn up by some large beast.  Sadly, none of them has Tracking proficiency, so they don't know what to be worried about.
     The gardener having apparently disposed of the bodies, they delighted Bertalan by allowing him to take their cloaks.  But he knocked them off guard again when Dave asked how he knew to call Dave 'my lord' and Bertalan responded he had nipped home and looked them up in the Book of the Damned   Deciding this time to try asking Sir Rankling's picture which turned out to be hung right there in the Entry Hall.  Dave led off by asking the picture"How are you doing?"  Which got him a pleasant response, but the picture wouldn't respond to any other question.  Deciding to check another portrait, Dave then fell into a frenzied fit on the floor.
     Questioning Bertalan, they learned that the portrait would only answer one question a day; the skeleton's that they had fought had been guests of Lady Rithiena; and that the Rhododendron Amulet was on a shelf in his bedroom.  He couldn't go fetch it for them, as the werewolves were expecting visitors but he gave them instructions to his room.  Brother Hendel and Goris left Corwin watching the foaming Dave and had a uneventful trip through the manor, taking care not to touch anything else than the amulet itself.
     Beating a hasty retreat back to the village, they passed an quiet night.  Brother Hendel had a final interview with Arnthora and promised to bring help.  he also left her with one of the goblets to sell for funds.
    On the return trip they stumbled across some kobolds in the process of setting up an ambush.  They quickly routed the little dog lizards, leaving three dead and three fleeing.  Goris, mistaking himself for an AD&D monk, had attempted to knock a javelin aside - but caught it through his off hand.  Despite Brother Hendel's quick actions, he ended up losing three fingers.
   After a day of rest in the larger village of Bizye, they spent the trip back to Hadrianopolis debating if giving the Amulet to Dave's dad would set off some sort of arcane apocalypse.  In the end Dave turned it over, winning his father's favor and learning that it was essentially a magic dog whistle that his father had won in a wager with Sir Runic - who in his father's opinion is a first rate poltroon who has abandoned his responsibilities while living in Constantinople. 
     Brother Hendel has been informed that there is no one with the requisite skills available at the Temple to solve Arnthora's problem.  Dave and his staff are being sent back to investigate the Lightning Tower and check the condition of an old Roman fort in the area.  He has however, convinced his father to let him take a horse and some riding mules from the stables.