December 17, 2018

Ben-Dagra session 1: Gold Pit of the Forgotten King

Presented as written by the party chronicler, the best thing to ever happen to my game group. Enjoy!

Dubious noblemen, so many bulls, and a mighty duck

We begin in a hookah lounge tucked away in the Weaver's District. The subterranean looms hummed below, tended by their monstrous Weavers.

This is our hangout. A spot to unwind and grab a drink to dull the memory of our daily toils. Recently some uppity nobleman showed up and started buying drinks for everyone. He's been doing this for weeks. Rubbing shoulders. Making friends. Assuring us that he too is a member of the middle class.

Tonight he finally revealed what he's up to. He gathered a bunch of us around, presumably the most trustworthy among us:
* a dwarven stonemason
* Felix the halfling trader
* Morton the gravedigger
* another gravedigger from a different guild
* a butcher who always carries half a side of beef with him
* an elven falconer
* a cheesemaker
* a squire training under a possibly fictitious knight
* a minstrel and a jester, sister and brother
* an animal trainer
* Elmer, the urchin
* a cutpurse
* a dwarven ratcatcher
* Liu Chang Zhan, rice farmer and Anatidaeomancer
* Sneed the beggar (and spider bite survivor)

The noble introduced himself as Darius Hamenoy, and rambled on about his impeccable pedigree while the rest of rolled our eyes, yawned, drank some more, and tended to our duck(s). Finally he got to the point. He apparently was sifting through his opulent library and opened up a dusty disused tome, and a parchment map fell out. It appeared to be a map to a fantastic lost treasure buried in a tomb of antiquity. He called it "The Gold Pit of the Forgotten King". Or was it The Forgotten Pit of the Golden King? Dammit. Maybe it was the Forgotten Gold of the King Pit. I don't know, I was drunk.

In any case, Lord Darius of Hamenoy proposed that we set off together to recover this treasure. In hindsight, we probably should have negotiated terms, but I think we were all eager to escape our boring jobs digging graves, begging, cutting purses, catching rats, etc, so we agreed immediately, and set off on the following morning.

We journeyed into the Scabrous Wastes, following the cursed ridge for half a day's journey, guided by Darius's map, finally arriving at an unremarkable spire of sandstone. It just looked like any other part of the arid terrain, aside from a small crack near the base. Upon further examination we discovered that this crack was large enough to squeeze through.

Our brave squire donned his helmet, demanded a torch from some other weak fool, and squeezed into the spire. The butcher raised up a holy symbol and followed, struggling to get his side of beef through the gap.

Inside the spire, it looked more like a well. It descended about 100 feet, and had a cobbled spiral staircase leading to the bottom. Sir Brave Squire led the way to the bottom, where we found a tall arch of stone, but the entryway was a solid wall of stone. Upon the wall was the image of a monstrous fanged bull, with a large hole where the mouth should have been.

Lord Darius informed us that the map says only noble blood will unbar the gate, so he stepped forward and put his arm in the hole. It worked! Well, sort of. Chalk this one up to user error. With his arm in the hole, the stone mechanism slides open, but unfortunately crushed and ripped Darius's arm off his body. He collapsed to the ground, screaming like a nobleman.

Our elven falconer fashioned a makeshift tourniquet while the minstrel sang a soothing tune to the doomed Darius. Miraculously, the bleeding stopped, so we continued on with no effort to retrieve the poor guy's severed arm.

Ahead of us we saw an ascending tunnel. Motifs of warrior kings and bulls were painted on the walls. Something glittered on the floor ahead. Maybe a dusty gem.

One of our halflings and one of our dwarves rushed toward it – a footrace for riches....or death in this case. The halfling grabbed the gem, but it turned out to be a trap mechanism. A giant stone block dropped out of the ceiling and crushed the poor little guy. Then the block began sliding down toward the rest of us, smearing halfling guts all the way down the ramp.

Sadly, the animal trainer and Elmer the Urchin got crushed, but the rest of us managed to dodge out of the way.

Heartlessly, we continued on, opening a door into a hallway leading left or right. The squire immediately charged to the left with his longsword raised, leading us to another room with a treasure chest and a suit of armor.

One of our dwarves (they all look the same, right?) lit the two torches on the wall, while the cutpurse stuck a dagger into the chest, prying the lid open. Glittering gems, pile of coins. Cutpurse pockets it all. The squire examined the armor rack. It was a fine set of scale mail. A copper sword in a scabbard. The squire looked it over thoroughly, suspicious of traps after whats-his-face just died in the last room, but didn't find any pressure plates or anything else out of place.

He donned the scale mail and handed the copper sword off to some other weakling. The butcher and Morton the gravedigger grabbed the torches off the wall and we headed off in the opposite direction.

What we found was an enormous room. The floor was deep, deep sand. Morton tried to kick some away to see if there was a stone floor beneath, but it was just sand and more sand. While he was busy staring at his feet, the rest of the party was transfixed by the giant statue of an enormous bull dominating the center of the room.

The cutpurse scampered up ahead to check out the bull while the rest of us cautiously followed.

Then, an enormous worm rose up from the sand! And devoured the cutpurse's face! With its scything jaws! Then it dove back into the sand.

The squire rushed in, toward the spot where the cutpurse disappeared under the sand. Another worm leapt out and bit the squire. Apparently this also triggered an impact trap in his cursed armor, releasing spring-loaded spikes into his body and killing him instantly. But we had no way of knowing that, and just assumed that these horrific worms were going to devour us all.

Just then, another worm leapt out at our butcher, trying to bite him, but instead it bit into his side of beef. It then tried to rip and tear at the meat, but the beef was too strong. Too tough. The poor worm ended up ripping its own face off. The butcher stood triumphant in his beef jerky armor.

Morton and the other gravedigger rushed at the worm that just killed the squire, and stunned it with their trusty gravedigging shovels. Then, Felix the trader ran over and stabbed it to death. It lets out a sad whining whimper, drowned out by the annoying celebratory cheer that Felix let out.

With one worm defeated, we made quick work of the other two that couldn't handle our battle superiority.

Felix inspected the massive stone bull statue. One of its eyes was an empty socket. The other glinted with the yellow sparkle of a gemstone. Felix pried it loose. A decent-sized topaz gem!

We explore some more, finding a short hallway that got thicker and thicker with cobwebs toward the end.

Liu Chang Zhan, rice farmer and Anatidaeomancer, stepped forward and set his duck on the ground, commanding it to head down the hall. The little mallard waddled away obediently, triggering multiple pressure plates and dart traps aimed for a normal humanoid's chest height. The whole group celebrated.

The butcher set the cobwebs on fire with his torch, revealing another doorway at the end of the hall. The door opened into a big room covered in webs. On the ground were several low figures, disfigured mounds covered with webbing.

Two of us went to investigate. The first one turned out to be a dead man. Really just a husk wearing ancient fine robes, clutching some kind of staff with a topaz gem. Felix appropriated said gem immediately.

Morton grabbed his gravedigger's shovel and dug into another one. This one also contained a dead person. However, it shortly erupted into a million awful spiders that devoured his face, then disperse. RIP Morton.

Liu Chang Zhan, the rice farmer, poked and prodded another of the web mounds, triggering a poison needle trap, but he miraculously managed to dodge it.

And then, giant spiders attacked! They were hiding on the ceiling the whole time. Also, two of them are on fire. Just so you know.

Sneed the spider bite survivor threw his flask of oil, trying to catch the uninflamed spider one on fire, but the flask misses.

Butcher attacked one of the flaming spiders with his meat cleaver and crushed its "skull". He had to use two hands to pull his cleaver loose, and the spider turned over and curled up.

The Ratcatcher gave another spider a solid thwack, and the other Gravedigger smashed in with his shovel.

The Ratcatcher and rice farmer both get bit badly by the spiders.

Felix stabbed with his shortsword, hacking the spider's mandibles clean off. The lone remaining spider succumbs to the flames engulfing it.

We explored the rest of the room and found:
* An altar
* A cask containing a golden statue of a bull
* Another corpse wearing leather armor

We headed back to the sand room and opened up the door to the south. I was a creepy twisting hallway. Every few feet there were ancient rotting tapestries hanging from the ceiling, getting in the way. We pick our way through and entered another large chamber.

In the center of the room was an altar. The eastern wall was completely covered with large tapestries. The cheesemaker sneaked over and peeked behind the curtain to see a large stone cabinet. He slipped behind the tapestry unnoticed and tried to quietly open it. A poison needle pricked his arm, but he still managed to get it open. He and started shoveling as much gold and silver into his pouch as possible, even though his arm felt like it was on fire from the poison coursing through his veins.

At the same moment, we heard a shrill, piercing scream. Maybe a whine. Or a shriek. But it got louder and louder until finally a monstrous shade ascended from the altar.  The skull of a bull. Long waving shape that howled threateningly.

The Ratcatcher threw his net at it. To everyone's surprise, it did absolutely nothing.

The shade pointed a ghostly finger at the Ratcatcher.

Felix charged in screaming, leaping off the altar and plunging his shortsword into the shade. He just passed through harmlessly.

With zero effort at all, the shade killed the ratcatcher.

The gravedigger swung his shovel, but it didn't seem to do much.

Thinking fast, the Jester rummaged through his pack and found a vial of holy water. He tossed it at the shade, causing it to screech and wail. Then it "popped" and went screaming back into the void.

We found:
* An ancient scroll
* A goblet full of mummified organs
* Sacrificial tools inlaid with precious metals.

With the shade banished back to the void, we headed back to the big room with the bull statue. Two of us clambered onto the giant bull statue, and placed the topaz gems back into its eye sockets.

The sandy floor began swirling beneath our feet in a massive whirlpool, sucking us downward into the pit. Sneed barely managed to escape the vortex, which revealed a stepped terrace down to the bottom.

The bull statue was now sitting on a tall pedestal, the base of which had an archway revealing stairs leading down.

We descended into a chamber with spikes all over the floor. Long catwalks led to the other side of the room, but the ancient stone arches had crumbled in places, leaving gaps on the walkway.

We found some rope and tossed it across the gap, lodging it around a stone.

The Minstrel tried to cross, but fell down onto the spikes. Miraculously she managed to survive. She picked her way around, recovered the rope, and helped the rest of us cross the chamber.

We entered a great throne room. Arches flanked the aisle leading down toward a throne. On the throne sat the desiccated corpse of the Forgotten King.

As soon as we stepped into the room, an enormous black aurochs materialized behind the great throne, breathing smoke and flame, billowing out over the throne and the corpse of the king in a cloud of ash. Next thing we knew, the forgotten king was sitting astride the beast, charging toward us.

The Elven Falconer drew his longsword and ran forward, hoping to flank the beast. A gout of smoke and ash billowed out, the beast let out a mighty bellow.

The rest of us saw a vision of a thousand ghostly bulls rushing at us. The jester couldn’t escape. His soul was dragged away, leaving his lifeless body on the stone floor. Sneed was almost killed, but his soul barely pulled back from the brink.

The minstrel dove for cover behind a pillar and hit the beast with a thrown dagger.

Sneed swung his club at the bull's head, wildly missed, and ended up falling flat on his back, stunned.

Mortimer the Trapper stepped out and launched a rock with his sling, distracting the giant beast while the dwarven stonemason swung himself up onto the aurochs, positioning himself behind the Forgotton King. At the same time, the Elven falconer spun around and slashed at the aurochs, landing a vicious hit.

The forgotten king stood up and swung a giant axe at the elven falconer, landing a nearly mortal wound.

The minstrel punched. Sneed stood back up.

Mortimer fired another sling projectile, hitting the forgotten king in the forehead. The king shuddered, and for just a heartbeat the king and the bull of faded out of existence.

The Dwarven stonemason raised his hammer and smashed the king from behind. It crushed his skull. The aurochs faded out of existence, and the king's bones clattered to the floor, crumbling to dust.

With the king and his steed defeated, we looted the treasury.