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Actual Play

Castle Xyntillan – Session #17 – Quest’s End

The Company:

  • Jaquet (F3)
  • Hendrik (MU3)
  • Bartolomea (C4)
  • Heintz (F2)
  • Davide (handgunner)
  • Cleo, Rivka & India (porters)
  • Edna & Franziska (heavy foot)
  • Gene (C2 retainer)

Loot:

  • Splintered jasper heart
  • One goatrice, captured alive
  • Three barrels of Malévol wine; one an excellent vintage, one an ancient essence, and one a healing draft
  • Chainmail +1
  • Crusader’s surcoat +2
  • The Oils of Cleansing

Casualties: None, but not for lack of trying.

Report:

While preparing for the next expedition, Bartolomea shows the severed head of the undead matron to various people around town in the hopes of getting its identity confirmed. Ultimately it is Madame Geraldine, director of the hospital, who confirms this to be Odile Malévol, aka “The Odious”. Bartolomea gets her confirmation in writing, and sends it along with the head itself to the bishop of Chamrousse.

Bartolomea also figures out what exactly the properties of the alembic holding a famous alchemist’s ectoplasma works. Turns out it can answer questions, genie-like, or be used as the basis for a range of potions.

Finally, Bartolomea buys a +1 mace from a traveling salesman. She succeeds in driving down the price by offering many blessings in return.

Jaquet gives his trusted porter India some more gold pieces to boost her dwindling loyalty. She responds favorably, and is keen to earn more in expeditions to come.

Jaquet also hires a handgunner, seeing as how he’s grown tired of shooting off his arquebus himself. He prefers to be in the front rank of the melee.

The magic-user Hendrik asks around about labs in the castle and receives a bunch of leads.

Inspired by the surprisingly profitable sale of the wine barrel from last expedition, the company decide to acquire a cart and two mules, so that they might bring back a bunch more on the next foray into the castle.

***

And with that, they arrive once again at the castle, on an average late February day, in the year of our lord 1526. They lead their mule-cart along the south wall to the grand entrance, and hide it around a corner.

Next, they enter through the grand entrance into the vestibule, move on to the large room with fireplace, desk and grandfathers clock, and go down the stairs into the wine cellar.

Keeping up the pace, they make their way towards the root cellar, but are fired at by skeleton guardsmen from a lookout behind a pair of murder holes.

Bartolomea runs towards the arrow slits, brandishes her cross and begins preaching at the skeletons. A bunch are destroyed and the remainder flee the sight of her. But they continue to fire at the rest of the party from the remaining murder hole. One of Hendrik’s heavy foot women raises runs forward, raises her shield, and courageously blocks off the other slit. The rest of the company make a run for the corridor that leads to the root cellar. Cleric retainer Gene then relieves the heavy foot and also successfully turns away the skeletons on the other side. When the full company has made it to safety, both clerics turn and run.

In the root cellar, the animated giant beets they encountered previously are napping. The company attempts to sneak past them unnoticed, but they are many and heavily armed, so inevitably a few beets wake up and begin to grouchily approach the company. They double-time it to the next corridor leading north, successfully evading the ire of the beets.

Bartolomea leads the company north along the corridor, ignoring doors previously inspected left and right. They reach the point where they had previously turned back, and press on. The corridor begins to transition into a cave tunnel. They notice a curious dead end to the east and stop to check for secrets, when the rear of the column raise the alarm. Something is approaching from the back.

At the edge of their torchlight appears the the living corpse of a lady dressed in purple and black, accompanied by a bunch of masked men in black pajamas. They recognize the creatures as the ones who had previously ambushed them and killed Hendrik’s heavy foot woman Lina.

The reference was obvious (Satsuo Yamamoto)

For a moment the two parties nervously face off. Then, Hendrik steps forward, deciding to try diplomacy for once. His friendly greetings are met with hisses, growls and the occasional “braaaiiinnnnsss” from the purple-and-black-clad corpse lady. Then, Bartolomea looses her patience and starts to make her way to the back of the column, holy symbol already raised. At the sight of this, the lady and her masked men attacks.

A lengthy melee develops. Aided by the choke point of the corridor the company ultimately prevails without suffering any casualties. They pull out all the stops — tossing holy water, firing magic missiles, and the heavy hitters in the front ranks some clad in magical armour, are nearly impossible to harm. The enemy is crazed and relentlessly stabs away even though they suffer heavy casualties. The corpse lady is hit not once but twice by well-aimed holy water, and melts into a puddle. The remaining masked men fight to the bitter end.

The dust hasn’t even settled, when something else approaches from the darkness. They hear a blend of bleating and crowing, and see an unholy goat-rooster hybrid enter their torchlight, looking at them quizzically.

Remembering that Jaques Valt offers a bounty for a specimen of these monsters, Hendrik tries to magic it to sleep. But the creature manages to resist, and it angrily charges the front ranks. They brace themselves for the petrifying headbutt, but the animals trips and falls, sliding to a halt at their feet. Keen on capturing it alive, the burly fighter Heintz jumps on top, attempting to grapple it. Bartolomea aided by others frantically tie it up with a rope, all the while managing to evade its whipping horned head. And with that, they have captured themselves a live goatrice.

One of the porters is tasked with lugging around the poor beast, which occasionally bleat-crows complainingly.

They take a breather, and search the remains of the murderous corpse-lady and her masked men. They find a splintered jasper heart which must certainly fetch a handsome fee.

The company then turn their attention back to the strange dead end. They spend some time inspecting the walls, and ultimately succeed in finding a secret door.

Beyond they find a cell with an undead monk writing away at a desk, and a bunch of bell clappers hanging from the wall. Bartolomea tries to converse with the monk but it mostly ignores her. When she reads some of his writing she discovers it to be tall tales revolving around a courageous and handsome monk. They search the cell, find nothing of value, and move on.

At this point, the majority of the company are eager to return to the surface, but Bartolomea refuses to turn back. She leads the company further up north.

The cave tunnel opens onto a large grotto. To the west is the shore of an underground lake. Here stands a bell hanging from a wooden pole with a plaque that reads “3 coins for passage”. There are also large double doors to the east. The grotto is shrouded in mist.

Resisting the temptation to mess with the bell, and resisting further urging from her companions to turn back, Bartolomea heads further north and enters another corridor.

At an intersection, she feels a cool draft from the north carrying the smell of incense. She presses on and they enter…

The cross-shaped chapel of her visions!

Excited, they begin to search the chapel. It holds benches for kneeling in prayer, and lots of minor saints’ statues. After a thorough search, they find nothing.

Standing in the center of the chapel, Bartolomea prays to her angel and God Himself for guidance, and hears a voice in her head say “X marks the spot.”

She kneels, taps the chapel floor, and notices a hollow sound.

The company sets to work, and lifts out several of the flagstones. They uncover a trap door. They carefully check it for traps, find none, and open it. Underneath is a shaft with a ladder leading down into the darkness. Bartolomea descends, and at its bottom finds a footlocker. She opens it without hesitation. In it are a suit of chainmail, a surcoat bearing crusader heraldry, and a vial holding an oil-like substance. Could this be The Oils of Cleansing, the object of her holy quest?

She carries the loot up the ladder back to her companions who are suitably impressed. They agree that now, finally, it is time to return to the surface.

Heading back, they manage to evade the ire of the animated giant beets, and are not harassed any further by the skeleton guardsmen. In the wine cellar, they can’t resist inspecting the contents of a few barrels, and when they find a some that smell particularly promising, they task their porters to carry them up to the surface.

Luckily, they encounter no further resistance from the castle’s denizens, and in the afternoon light, they load up their cart and make their way back to town.

***

Upon their return they have their loot appraised and identified. The jasper heart and the goatrice fetch a decent amount. But the barrels of wine are the real moneymakers.

They learn about the miraculous properties of the Oils of Cleansing. It can, among other things, cure curses. They put two and two together, and Bartolomea hands over the cursed tome of black magic she had previously recovered to the magic-user Hendrik. He is afflicted by its curse, feels the awful disease it causes take hold of him for a moment, and then comes to with a greasy forehead, Bartolomea standing over him smiling benevolently, vial of holy oil in her hands.

To celebrate, Bartolomea and Jaquet go carousing. The cleric makes lewd advances at what turns out be a witch and barely avoids being turned into a pig. The fighter wakes up the next morning in the local church naked. He has lost his +1 dagger and love potion. Father Brenard helps him up, and warmly thanks him for his visit. Confused and a little worried, Jaquet scurries off back to his residence.

Referee’s Commentary:

The players were elated at the end of this one. Not only did Bartolomea complete her quest and recover a major magic item, the barrels of wine also fetched an obscene amount of gold pieces, and so everyone gained an additional level.

At the top of the session I struggled a little bit with dialing in the correct size of a wine barrel. I have now settled on the historic British measure of 120 liters the standard Burgundy barrel size of 225 liters. But in this session I ruled they were about half that size, and so they were able to carry up and bring back a significant number without too much trouble.

I wasn’t too pleased with how I handled the fight with Gillz and her assassins. They make for pretty crap fighters in a straight melee, but by the time I realized this, they were already committed. I also neglected to make use more than once of Gillz’s double-poison-dagger attack. I imagined she would be carrying only a limited supply of them, but maybe it would have been, shall we say, more interesting if she’d been able to pummel the company with save-or-die missiles throughout the fight. Another thing I could have done, in hindsight, is to have her feign a retreat, hide in the shadows, and then backstab whoever came running after her. But the thing with all these clever ideas is that you need a moment to think of them. When you try to run a combat in a high-paced fashion, and it’s your turn as the referee to act as the opposition, you really haven’t had time to strategize. So I often find myself defaulting to simply attacking (or if morale fails, running away). That does not work with these types of combatants. Ah well, live and learn.

The company is riding high these past few sessions. They have offed a significant number of family members, and have also acquired a family heirloom. So I think the family may finally take proper notice of these scoundrels. I look forward to figuring out how they may respond.

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