Down and Out in Wren's Crossing
A generic, serial fantasy adventure
Copyright © 2001 by Michael L. Straus
Chapter Two: Action, Sports ... Snakes
The story so far:
In Chapter One, our heroes have entered the 'Haunted Forest' in search of the elusive 'Midnight Rose'. There they encountered a mysterious band of mounted and armored soldiers who took them captive.
Dawn is quickly approaching and with it the last hope that they will get the 'Rose' back to Raif on time.
'Move along, the boss wants you tucked in before dawn !'
With these gruff, unfriendly words the party is forced to march across the water-logged 'Haunted Forest' at sword point. Who these men are and what they want is still a mystery but it seems pretty obvious they know who you are.
The ugly one stays apart from the rest and eyes you with a very appraising look. You feel his snakelike eyes burn into you and seem to rip away your deepest secrets. The others treat him with something resembling respect yet there is nothing to mark him as anything other then a mercenary, yet ?
The trip is long and wet and while you must walk, the men are mounted. Their horses slosh through the mud and seem to drag the party down. With a smirk you realize the foolishness of bringing horses in to the Forest.
As the journey continues the men begin to grumble about the rain and the mud and the state of the horses. When one man falls off his horse into a sinkhole and almost drowns, the others just laugh and complain which results in a small fight and the death of one of the Mercenaries at the hands of the other.
Then it happens. One of the horses falls in the mud and breaks its leg. There is confusion and chaos as the other horses bulk at this and react to the injury of their 'friend.'
A window of opportunity presents itself and you see your chance to escape.
The wounded horse is quickly brought to heel and put out of its misery. As the horse's blood sprays the air, the howls of wolves can be heard and something else. A deep, guttural yowl that can only be an orc hunting call.
The mercenaries look around nervously and remount. After some further argument, they get you to climb aboard the horses with them as they take off as fast as they can in the rain.
Water beats on you and mud flies in your face. The horse can barley manage a trot in this weather and once again the Mercenaries begin to complain amongst themselves about this mission.
Dawn is only an hour off. You can begin to see the first hints of pre-dawn. Up ahead on the horizon, you catch a glimpse of the end of the woods and an unfamiliar landscape.
The air is broken by the scream of arrows. Two mercenaries go down almost instantly with black arrows in their throats.
With that the orcs are on you again. Go to part 3
2: Run in the woods.
Read this ONLY if the party bolted. Otherwise, finish Part 1 then go to Part 3.
Freedom comes quickly. A parting of the trees and you are gone. Blindly running in the rain and mud, avoiding the stinging lash of the branches. Around every corner the sickly red eyes of the Wolves or something worse.
Yet you have escaped from these mysterious mounted men and hopefully you can maintain your lead on them.
'Who are these guys? What do they want with you?'
The sound of pursuit is thankfully a stranger, yet in this pounding rain and muck your senses could be lying to you. The truth is they could be just around the bend and you would not know it. Even the non-humans in the party (if there are any) are hard put. It is as if the very Forest conspires against you.
A strange sound cuts the air, like the moan of something that should not be. Perhaps the Forest truly is haunted after all ?
Yet you run in the direction you think is safe. You have no other choice, the men could be upon you any second and the wolves and orcs are around the corner and perhaps something worse....
'That's far enough, pups!'
Suddenly the ugly man is in front of you with a bow nocked and aimed at you. He sits astride his horse like the rain is nothing to him. How the hell did he get in front of you so fast ?
'You pups gave me quite a chase, but it was inevitable that I find you. No one escapes me once I have their scent. You are brave, I will give you that. Now prove to me you are smart also and come along with me before the orcs find us.'
You have him outnumbered. He has but a long bow and a long sword. He is mounted which in this weather could be to his disadvantage. Yet ...yet there is something about those steely snakelike eyes that tells you to attack him is to invite death.
Do you do it anyway ?
'Oh bloody hell!'
Before you have a chance to decide, fate takes a hand. The Forest is suddenly alive with the shambling forms of the walking dead!
(Don't forgot the party is -2 to all rolls due to the rain)
Ghouls (6) +1 to hit. Claws 1d8+1. Bite 1d6+1. Natural armor= Chain Mail. -1 to be hit due to foul stench. All struck will receive Black Wound! Very fast, very tough.
Should the party survive the encounter with the Ghouls (the knight will) it will be just in time for the remaining Mercenaries to arrive.
You notice there are less of them then there were before.
'Orcs ambushed us while you were off chasing these ones, Snake.'
'I say we kill them now and forget the plan.'
Snake (yes that's who he is) smiles and licks his bloody lips.
'Orcs, Undead. I don't care. We take them back as planned and the next person who opens his mouth, I will personally hand him his heart for lunch.'
Then he turns his gaze your way.
'You fight well. My wise woman will tend to your wounds when we arrive back at my Hold Fast. And now that my cover is blown, let me introduce my self. I am Drew, Brother to Lord Drin of Wrens Crossing. Better known as the Snake!'
Go to part 4
3: The Action.
The night air is cut with the sound of arrows. Screams fill the air as the orcs are upon you.
There is no time to think. Just fight.
Orc Footman (12) +2 to all rolls. Scimitar (1d8+2). Chain Mail. Shield.
Orc Archers (6) +2 to all rolls.Black Bows (1d10+2). Long Knives (1d6+2) Chain Mail.
Black Orc Commander (1) +3 to all rolls. Long Sword (2d6+3). Chain Mail. Shield. Tough.
The orcs fight with renewed vigor and they fight DIRTY. It is obvious while last time they were trying to capture you, this time they are trying to kill you and with dawn only a few moments away they need to end this fight _now.
' Fight, fight to the man. Fight for the Snake!' cries the ugly man with the snakelike eyes as he leads the defense. He rallies his remaining men as best he can and they fight. Your weapons are tossed to you and he screams
' Fight, dogs, and live to see the dawn!'
Whether you like it or not, you must now fight for your life alongside these men, against the greater foes of the orcs.
4: What the Snake Wants.
The fight ends. The dead are left for the wolves and the wounded are bound to the horses of those that still stand. Numb and in pain, you fall in line with the mercenary force. If not for the man who you now realize is the Snake, this fight may have gone badly.
For reason you can't explain, you fall in line as the party continues its march.
'I guess you have figured out who I am, pups. Should there be any doubt in your mind, yes I am Lord Drin's brother, Drew. Better known as the Snake. You fight well, pups. I could use swords like you in my camp. I will see your wounds tended to when we reach my Hold-Fast. Now walk. Don't forget, you are still my prisoners'
And so you walk. You walk for another hour as the dawn comes up. Though it is not much to look at. The sky is still black with rain clouds and the weather is still as foul as your moods. You almost welcome the sight of the small Hold-Fast sitting in the small hidden valley at the end of the Forest.
' Damn weather !'
' They say it's the work of the Necromancer.'
' You watch your mouth, Bill.'
You are escorted into the Hold fast and watch with depression as the Gate is lowered and you are locked in. You can almost feel the Midnight Rose dry up in your pack and you worry for Raif back in town. The men-at-arms go their ways, and the Snake leads you into a small but comfortable conference room.
A Wise Woman tends your wounds and you are fed and treated well while the Snake is busy elsewhere.
Time passes, and other than the dying of the fire in the hearth, you have no way to tell how long you have been here. The room grows dark before the Snake rejoins you.
Even in his finest clothing he is still an ugly man. He stokes the fire and then offers you wine
' Don't worry. It's not poison.'
He drinks, then waits for you to. He sits down at a table and offers you a seat.
'I suppose you are wondering what this is all about. I am sure you know that if my brother fails to produce a whelp by Midwinter court, he loses his claim to the Seat of Wrens Crossing. Should that happen, his brother - that is to say me - gains control of Wrens Crossing and its lands as per the laws of the First Kings.'
He pauses and sips.
' Obviously, I want that to happen.'
' Now, despite my appearance I am not a bad person, but I was never the favorite. I was an ugly unwanted whelp left to survive on my own while my Father cuddled Drin for leadership. I learned to be strong while Drin grew fat, spoiled and weak.'
' I am sure you have seen my brother's ideas on population control. Threatening Raif, locking the town up during plague instead of investing energy in finding cure, and using you as slaves to find his precious Midnight Rose.'
'Well I know I am not alone. Other think as I do and would be very happy to see Drin fail at Midwinter. Then I, the rightful heir, the most deserving one, would be Lord of Wrens Crossing!'
He laughs and takes another sip. You begin to fear that he is as insane as his brother and neither should be ruler of Wrens Crossing.
' Only two things stand in my way. One -- I can not lay claim till Midwinters Court, during which that time my brother may well find a way to produce a child. This is why I stopped you. Without that flower, my brother only has one option left to him to produce a child.'
' Now obviously, the other way to take over the land is a military option. My army simply takes the land from Drin the old fashioned way. Which brings us to the second thing standing in my way.'
' The orcs and their master!'
He pauses to let that sit in. The room seems to grow dark and a wind kicks up outside.
'While Drin chooses to ignore what's going on in the Haunted Forest, I do not. I have studied the orc numbers and they are growing. In addition, it is obvious that there is a intelligence behind their actions.'
' Up till a few weeks ago the Undead in the Haunted Forest consisted of a few pathetic zombies. Now ghouls and wraiths haunt the woods at night, ever since this plague started!'
'There is a connection. I am sure of it!'
He pauses again. He snaps his fingers and armed men enter the room.
'Enough of my ranting. Obviously I can not allow you to bring that flower back to my brother, nor can I allow you to inform him of my actions till my time is right. I therefore invite you to be my guests in my castle for the next few months.'
' I have seen how you fight. Why not join me? I can make your loyalty worthwhile and your stay hear that much more pleasant.'
'What do you say ?'
If yes read A
if no read B
'A wise choice. Tomorrow after you are rested we will discuss how you can serve me.'
With that he dismiss you. Silent maids escort you to your room and ask if you have any needs that they can fulfill.
You climb into bed and ponder your predicament. Sleep crawls over you and...
Something wakes you up hours later. It is dark and cold and rain pelts the Hold-Fast. The wind howls and you swear you heard a scream. The Hold-Fast is cold and quiet and dark and there is a strange musty smell in the air that was not there earlier.
Something tells you to get up. You are and armor yourself and open the door. Just in time to hear the guttural sound of someone having their throat ripped out and then the thud of a fleshy body being slammed into the wall.
Someone screams to your left, another voice yells out 'Help' to your right. Somewhere else someone yells 'To arms!'
Then it all grows quiet again, except for a faint moaning in the distance and a sickly, pale glow that seems to hang in the air.
Slowly you creep forward to investigate and you see them.
The walking dead.
Go to Part 5
' A foolish choice. I assure you, my dungeons are not as pleasant as my guest rooms and the rats not as inviting as my maids. Oh well ... either way you are mine!'
With that the Snake snaps his fingers and the armed guards escort you into the dungeons.
The walk you ahead of them at sword point and gossip amongst themselves as they march you along.
Down you go, below the Hold-Fast into the cold, unforgiving dungeons.
It is cold, wet and dark down here and the air is ripe with the smell of mold and disease. The guards stop to disarm you and then continue to march you to your doom. They laugh and talk amongst themselves.
Then suddenly grow quiet.
You walk a few feet before you realize you are alone. You turn around and they are gone!
You stop and look. Nothing! In the distance you hear a stifled scream and then moaning. A pale, stickily glow seems to hang in the air.
You walk forward and pass the body of one of the guards stuffed in to a small niche in the wall. Blood trickles down from his severed head.
You enter the chamber where they disarmed you and find the second guard. Being eaten alive by some ghouls!
5: Sports! (Cliffhanger ending)
Ok this has nothing to do with sports, but the ghouls are armed with baseball bats so it's close.
By some dark foul magic, the Hold-Fast has been overrun by ghouls (and something else). The ghouls have been told to capture the Snake and the players (for next chapter) and kill everyone else. They are led by a wraith!
No matter where they go the players will find the same thing. Small bands of ghouls slaughtering the inhabitants of the Hold-Fast. The Hold-Fast is surrounded by dark storm clouds and all interior light sources have been put out, only the sickly pale glow of the dead lights the place.
Ghouls (6) +1 to hit. Claws 1d8+1. Bite 1d6+1. Baseball bat club 1d8+1.Natural armor=Chain Mail. -1 to be hit due to foul stench. All struck will receive Black Wound! . Very fast, very tough.
Escape is impossible as the ghouls control the whole castle and outnumber the players ten to one. Plus the wraith will relentlessly hunt down the players and the Snake until they are captured. A few other members of the Hold-Fast might also end up being captured for 'later'.
Wraith (1) +4 to hit. Claws 1d10+4. Non magic does 1/2 damage. +1 or magic to do full damage. Very fast! Touch causes Black Wounds. Can pass through walls. Smell Track.
By the end of the night the players will find themselves captured with their former host and being marched down into the dungeons of the Hold-Fast. There they will discover a secret tunnel that even the Snake did not know about. They will be marched into the dark, deep underground tunnel and along its twisting path for hours with no rest allowed (the dead need no sleep).
At then end of which they are escorted in to a strange, dank chamber filled with a foul stench and the pale glow of the dead.
Their they will wait with this army of the dead for their new 'Host'.
6: Next Chapter: The Villain exposed
Who is the evil force behind the ghouls and perhaps the very plague itself? What does he (or she) want ?
Find out next chapter in THE EVIL THAT MEN DO (Including information on the plague and Black Wounds).
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