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Actual Play

Castle Xyntillan – Session #21 – Snake Whisperer

The Company:

  • Claus (T3)
  • Jürg (F2)
  • Fernando (F2)
  • Hendrik (MU4)
  • Amaranth (C2)
  • Niemir (crossbowman)
  • Kea (handgunner)
  • Lukas (heavy foot)
  • Jonas (porter)

Loot:

  • Ten gems from a giant snake’s belly
  • Animated chess set
  • Magic hammer and sickle
  • Set of keys, including a golden one
  • Flask of wine
  • Poison ring
  • Service bell
  • Four barrels of wine: one hallucinogenic; one healing; one moldy but immune-boosting; and one ancient essence

Report:

The company decides to pause their operations until Amaranth recovers from her bout of madness in the care of the hospital’s sisters. Eight weeks later, she is released.

Claus hires a new arquebusier, a woman named Kea, who is the proud owner of a mace +1.

The masked “lumberjack” Blérot — whom the company freed from his prison in the castle, and who would later gifted them a magic staff cut from a legendary tree in the forests surrounding Tours-en-Savoy — appears on their doorstep, fear in his eyes, begging to be hidden from the woodsmen that are pursuing him. The company agrees to hide him for the time being.

Othmar, the captain of the guard who Jürg insulted some time ago while out carousing, confronts Jürg — accompanied by a couple of guardsmen — and demands reparations for the terrible insult he suffered.

The company acquires a portable hole from Ben Mordechai at the bargain basement price of 6.000 GP, because the thing is apparently a little unstable.

***

The company once again enters through the grand entrance. In the vestibule they come across the ghost of James the butler once more. He’s not too pleased to see them this time around. The company ignores them and hurries along in the direction of the portrait gallery and the throne room beyond.

When they make it there, they go to the throne to check if the scepter has been returned to the compartment underneath the seat. To their great disappointment, it is not there.

They decide to take the opportunity to check the various doors leading off from the throne room. The north doors lead into a massive eerily empty ball room. When they’ve just entered a large group of undead ladies stream past them and begin to pair up and dance to the tune of their own humming. The company hurries out and back into the throne room.

The double doors to the west open onto an overgrown inner courtyard under the shadow of the donjon, containing many statues in various states of decay. They do not enter the garden, and in stead move on to the south door.

This door appears to open onto a cell complex. It is dark and silent. They opt not to enter here either.

In stead, they decide to go down into the dungeons once more, and investigate the root cellar which during the previous expedition was cleared of its giant beet inhabitants.

They ride the throne down into the changing room. When the last group is making its way down, a massive snake drops down from the hole left by the throne and slithers between them. Everyone panics and tries to distance themselves from the snake as much as possible. The monster appears to ignore them, and begins to head north into the darkness. Before it entirely disappears from sight they hear it bid them a “good morning”.

Giant snake, a sword and sorcery classic (Frazetta)

This prompts Jürg to call out to the snake. A lengthy conversation develops. It turns out the snake is terribly bothered by a bunch of gems stuck in its belly. Jürg manages to persuade the snake to open its maw so that he can tickle its uvula. The snake hurls and vomits the gemstones onto the dungeon floor. It takes two tries to rid the beast of the full ten gems it had swallowed. Jürg all the while manages to avoid its huge fangs dripping venom. Relieved, the monster thanks the company and continues on its way, but not before it has introduced itself as “Meander Malévol”.

Amazed at how well this encounter went for them, the company next heads to the root cellar.

Here they first play around with the statue of the lady in the nude and discover it can be shifted to reveal a shaft that leads into a room with a cistern, beyond.

When they check the south door they find it opens onto circular room where animated tools are excavating a casket from an earthen pit in the center. Doors lead off to the east and south.

The company decides to once and for all rid themselves of those pesky skeleton guardsmen in the room overlooking the wine cellar. They open the door east, readying themselves for combat, but in stead find a small empty room with the obvious outlines of a secret door heading east.

The thief Claus (who had Invisibility cast on him at the expedition’s start) sneaks through the secret door. He remains unnoticed but the skeletons are alerted by the secret door swinging open. Not wasting any time, Jürg and Fernando barge in and begin smashing skeletons left and right. Hendrik follows up with magic missiles that obliterate a few more. Amaranth finishes the job with some preaching and brandishing of her cross, which turns the remaining skeletons to dust. The things did not stand a chance.

Searching the guardroom they find nothing of value except an animated chess set. They chase up the fleeing playing pieces, and return to the excavation room. Jürg, impatiently, smashes open the casket. Inside they find a hammer and sickle, as well as three thick volumes. They take everything, pleasantly surprised that the tools are ignoring them.

Next, they move into the wine cellar, and begin tapping and sampling barrels at their leisure. Those that appear promising are moved into their newly acquired portable hole.

Whole getting ready to move the final batch, they are surprised by a hunchbacked figure tapping them on the shoulder. The man turns out to be Samuel, servant of the count and countess. He’s nosy, and ogles Claus’s new handgunner Kea in an increasingly unpleasant manner. They try to get rid of Samuel with a string of bullshit excuses. But he won’t have none of it. When the conversation begins to turn nasty, Claus, still invisible, loses his patience and stabs Samuel in the back. Before the hunchback can even utter a cry of surprise, Kea follows up with a well-aimed shot to the head, splattering the company with gore.

Quickly, they roll the final pair of barrels into the portable hole, pack it up, and make their way out of the castle without further issue.

Referee Commentary:

A cellar stacked with high-value wine barrels and a portable hole on sale at the magic item shop. My players are no dummies, so of course they went for it. Now I find myself needing to adjudicate how portable holes work, exactly (Brendan’s OSR search engine is of great help there). I am also getting into the details of wine barrels, and how exactly they are tapped, typically (where would we be without YouTube).

This strategy did net them another significant haul of XP, which means the average company level is back around the 3-4 range. This makes them a little hardier. But as the infamous encounter with the ghouls a few sessions back has shown, fortunes can turn at a moment’s notice.

This session was characterized by a lot of roleplaying-oriented encounters. This emerged due to a combination of the specific NPCs and monsters rolled up, as well as the fact that I rolled a neutral or better reaction for almost all of them. The encounter with the giant snake Meander was the absolute highlight of the session, I feel like. It’s so funny how the vibe of a session can be significantly altered depending on those random encounters. I wonder what next session will have in store for us.

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