Chapter Ten –"The Earth Mother of Harlots."

We are not looking for very long before the doors open once more and two more of the large Troll-like Dogs enter the room as we search. Full of the ferocity that comes from years of abuse by their handlers, they leap and attack the closest person - me. Parts of McFlurry’s web still remain to annoy and hamper people, especially now that I find myself stuck on the wrong side of the web with two feral dogs as company. I take my chances by running the tiny walkway between the pits, managing just enough of a distance without falling in that means that the four legged animals cannot bite me anymore.

There are other people hidden out of sight behind the dogs as arrows whizz through, one taking Idjit deeply in the side, while from my decidedly precarious vantage point I can see that some of the pits contain more than one slave.

Monks obviously do not belong to any of the dog protection societies as McFlurry trips and hurls a broken legged dog into a wall, while my repeated testing of Summon spells fails again in this area. Trixie continues to burn the web away and finding a vantage point, draws her crossbow to try and counter the new missile attacks.

She then realises that she has no bolts for the said weapon, and so drops it and shouts helpful words of encouragement instead. McFlurry is still dogging, and by this I obviously mean fighting dogs and not having carnal relations with strangers in a horse drawn carriage off of a country lane, while Chunk and Idjit seem to be helpless flies in the web, firmly stuck and going nowhere.

I am a little more than useless myself stuck on a junction and nearly lose my tentative grip on the small walkway as I try and use my sling – quite unsuccessfully I might add, while Trixie aids the little party flies by burning them, sorry, burning the web that they are in.

I know that they are not proper animals in any sense of the word and are more beastlike in nature - something that I do not really have any affinity with, but for Milkie’s sake, McFlurry is really going to town on the dogs. He seems to have found a real penchant for dog leg breaking as the howls and cracks of the Troll Hounds are similar to fingernails down a chalk board. After the third or fourth leg breaking** howl however I find that it’s a very effective method of attack and settle back into my normal apathy towards non-animal based life-forms and help by sling-shotting the crippled Troll hounds in the head with pebbles I found near a lovely brook some time back.

The arrow firing Orcs have stepped forwards to get a better angle now though and two nicely placed arrows hit me with just enough force and strength to knock me over. My acrobatic skills are notorious.....for being rubbish, and I fall awkwardly into the pit smashing myself in the face and knocking myself unconscious.

The rest of the battle is re-laid to me after I am awake again, and continues like this:

Trixie stops burning things long enough to crawl over to the pit where I dropped, which was handily one closest to the wall and not further in, and McFlurry continues his fine dog killing. Idjit comes out of the web and I sadly miss his nonchalant drawing of his bow and subsequent shooting of the main archer in the eye with a magnificent strike, which kills him instantly**.

His second arrow kills the dog whimpering and looking ashen faced at the Monk standing over it and preparing to break its last leg, and then it’s all over with no moving combatants left. Trixie lowers herself into the pit and gives me a potion to get me back on my feet again and when I am up, gratefully aid her back onto the ledge above us.

Back all on the main walkway, we set about getting people from the pits. One, a human female who was bound and gagged is exceedingly insistent on recovering her gear and refuses to leave with the rest of the slaves back the way we come. Her bickering with the party increases, well sort of with me really, well perhaps entirely with me may be a better way of actually putting it, and soon I angrily recite “....and the woman was clothed in purple and scarlet and adorned in precious ornaments and pearls and precious stones having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and unclean things of her immorality.”***

Trixie tries to calm me down, but can see my point as she wants to open doors we have not yet gone through, too potentially come across more devil dogs or naughty crossbow wielding Orcs while being completely bereft of spells and health simply to look for her clean clothes.

So Trixie and I lead the rest of the grateful slaves back to the temporary safety of Fiddles room, while the female stomps off in the other direction, followed by the three blind mice made up of Stumpy, Idjit and Chunk. More insults are hurled between the two of us before we leave, and I think she secretly fancies me.

We find that the slaves from the pits are all mostly farmers except for a human male that looked more Warrior than farmer and the female whom I am currently referring to as a Lady of the Night. Once back in the room with Fiddle its getting decidedly crowded as approximately 30 people are held within its confines.

The woman has led Idjit, Chunk and Stumpy to a room where their gear is found in a chest in a store room of sorts. Idjit has picked up the bow and armour from the dead Archer which both look in very good condition, and soon Trixie and I warily rejoin the party waiting for a surprise attack. Some people obviously do not remember the last ‘prisoner’ we recovered who left in the middle of the night after removing Idjit’s spleen and I delight no one by repeating this whenever I can to prove my point.

The tension between myself and the female escalates after Trixie helpfully tries to team build with his comments of “...he needs building up and reassuring” with a knowing wink to a fellow female. Her barbed comments continue which causes me to launch into more old quotes screaming “..upon her forehead was written a name, a mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the earth, and I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints of the earth and the blood of the witnesses of Jesus, and when I saw her I wondered greatly'” ***

Which went down rather well I thought.

The rest of the party are stunned into a bemused silence and all is quiet for at least 30 minutes as we explore rooms for secret passages before stripping the Orc’s of goods and throwing them into the pits. Another room contains an archery target and a large bearskin rug which is picked up by McFlurry and a hidden chest which contains coin and a few trinkets. Both McFlurry and Trixie find a secret door with no apparent means of opening until a lengthier search reveals a switch. With the door opened, a staircase leading upwards is found and we close the door back up remembering the latch’s location for later exploring.

This stumps us and we consult the map looking for places we have not gone. When I am asked where we should go next, I look round at the expectant faces and stormily shout out “...why are you asking me? Why not ask her!” and launch into another ‘she must be evil’ tirade. My listening skills are far too great to miss McFlurry’s veiled whisper to Trixie of “..find out if she can write journals and we can swap her for Tenpast...” especially when we find out that she is a Druid.

Shakira is her name and although my Babylon Whore ranting has had limited effect, it finally dawns on Idjit what happened the last time we trusted people blindly and I notice with a wry smile a knocked arrow in his bow. Another secret door is found that continues back into the store room, and soon we are round in a circle and back at the conveyor belt. Idjit has found some tracks leading to some stairs and searching the side passages we come across a few more slaves and release them as well.

There are metal tracks laid in some of the longer passages and we are following one set of them for a long way which causes McFlurry to begin to ramble into a long lengthy monologue “..if I was a one eyed sailor, I know I am not, but...” that despite the fact that people were desperate to ignore him they are drawn in like half blind moths to a particularly dim flame.

We thankfully come across some Orcs to stop McFlurry speaking and the ‘Bitch Lady Druid’ – I am quoting from my notes here, casts Barkskin and Spikes as we move into battle. Idjit with his bow drops one immediately with a fine strike and McFlurry stuns another before smashing him into the wall as I smash him on the head with my club.
McFlurry runs round the bend of the corridor to spot two Orcs but then runs back to tell us, allowing them to be ready when we do come round the corner. Crossbow bolts flying by cause Trixie to take one in the arm and another in the side, and stunned she simply glances at the trickle of blood from the wounds until I drag her back out of harm’s way.

Idjit and Chunk are raring to go with Chunks huge axe crashing down to amputate the first Orcs arm clean from it’s torso and this continues** with each gleeful strike from the Half-Orc showering gore and limbs into the corridor. The last Orc has its ankles crushed by a powerful stamp by McFlurry before his next strike hits the Solar Plexus causing the internal organs to shut down.

More Orcs appear through the open door and McFlurry catches a bolt in the leg, which does not hamper his attack as he steps forward and breaks the closest Orcs arm then trips him to cause the Orc to face slam the floor and lie unmoving. Chunk cuts the next two down with ease, and then it’s all quiet again.

Closing the door we start to hustle the slaves out of the room and along the corridor leading back to Fiddle, getting those stuck in the pits out with ladders. After gathering all the Slaves in place, we start to head back to the upper levels, checking on a door that we believe leads back to the surface. The door is very stuck and takes us a long time to get opened.

After a few hours of organization and effort, we are managing the long line of slaves out into the open air and quickly away from the castles grounds. The journey for us along takes two days back and accompanied by 50 slaves of various conditions this turns into nearly 5 days of travel, with Stumpy and I providing food.

On the second day the Druid lady thanks us for rescuing her, even sort of including me – well, she thanked the others and glared at me which is sort of the same thing. Our arguing (thankfully for the rest of the party) has now settled to the feigning of nonchalance sprinkled with the air of superiority and a smattering of ignorance on both sides, which basically meant that we communicated with nods, gestures and meaningful glances.

After these few words she rummages in her pack and producing a bottle, opens it for smoke to pour out to quickly form the horse from the Bottle of Smoke spell. This earns one of the afore mentioned meaningful glances from me and one that she replies with a ‘bet you can’t do this’ look in her eye, which I can’t, so I pretend it does not exist and do not look at the horse at all.

Once astride the mount, she tells us she will get back to town far quicker than we are currently moving and will send for the town guards. This is the best thing she has said assuming she is being helpful, and off she rides, soon disappearing from our view.

By the third day dust on the horizon becomes a group of mounted guards, who tell us that they were told of our plight from a lady – it seems that I may have slightly misjudged her after all. Over the next day or so, with the mounted guard helping those struggling with the journey, all the slaves are welcomed back into the city.

While the rest of the party heads back to the inn for a well earned rest and a bath, McFlurry heads off to the market with his huge rug hoisted on his shoulders. He is careful, looking about often and pausing to take measure of his surroundings, but spots nothing.

Because those following him were better.

A dagger in the belly is spotted just too late, and dropping to the floor dying, he thankfully stabilizes as he falls unconscious, but he is robbed soundly of all his goods, including his special rug.

And while McFlurry lays bleeding in a small pile of old cabbage leaves, we are eating fine foods, drinking exceptional wine and getting praise from the lady commander of the City. We tell tales that have not even been exaggerated, for which we are granted gifts and given a wage. We are superior!



** We had experimented with Criticals from Rolemaster during this session which sadly did not go the way we remembered it from a previous (2nd edition) DnD years long gone. There was far too much stunning and unable to block as well as random critical’s that favoured the person who won initiative to the point of being a very one sided fight. It did produce some fine moments – Idjit rolled 116 on his critical to kill the archer outright with a splendid shot through the eye.

The death of the archer was a turning point I think – I suspect he was one of Kon’s NPCs, powered up with all the good Archer feats to wreck havoc rather than the normal generic NPC’s that are created, as up until then most of the fight was breaking legs and chopping off arms.

We all agreed that even though we had come off far better with the criticals it did add another layer of complexity, and the fights could have easily gone the other way. DM and players all agreed to shelf the rules and they did not return the next week.

*** Book of Revelation 17:4 and 17:5 from the Bible. See, I can do high brow as well....