Thanks to his quick witted actions, Randulf had acquired a sack-full of 'garden gnomes' to sell
When in Darkholme; the place to sell things is The Dirt Market. We headed down to the market and spoke with the market's manager.
He told us that "We were in luck!". A market stall had just been vacated and was now available: It seems that Pendolin came by this very morning, packed up all of his stock and hastily left. A little later a 'red-man' who stank awfully came looking for Pendolin, his features were hidden by a wide brimmed hat, although the other sellers noted the red-man had glowing eyes.
Red skin, glowing eyes. This had us... concerned.
Regardless of this, Randulf agreed to the manager's terms - a 10% cut of any profit and took over the stall.
Little time passed before a red-man in a wide brimmed hat came a-visiting! We detected a strong smell of sulphur about him as he drew closer. He looked at the stall and looked at Randulf. He then gave a grunt and wandered off. Although a moment later he appeared to change his mind and turned back to the stall.
"Where is Pendolin? And who are you?" He asked, before adding. "Are you related to him?".
Our response was. "And who are you?".
"Tell Pendolin he has one day. Then he and all his relatives - including you, are forfeit." said the red-man. With one clawed finger he scratched a glowing rune or glyph into the table.
This chafed Randulf who had only just acquired this market stall! As the red-man went to depart, Randulf lunged out and grabbed the red-man's arm from behind. The red-man grabbed Randulf's hand and threw him over his shoulder so that Randulf thumped down face up on the ground in front of him.
Before leaving, the red-man then leant down and inscribed the same glyph on Randulf's forehead!
When the red-man was gone, Urham cast an identify spell on the glyph and learnt it was demonic in nature and was also some sort of timer.
It seemed important that we warned Pendolin about this oncoming problem, but no one knew where he had gone. His home was some two days travel from Darkholme. Following a discussion, it is decided that we should seek professional advice, in other words speak with Petunia Rootlocks.
Leaving the stall under the diligent, watchful eyes of the market guards, we headed for the Spire.
Our conversation with Petunia upon our arrival was fairly brief. Petunia scrutinised the glyph, she then explained that it was a 'glyph of bargaining'! The bargain requires an innocent soul to be paid before the time expires - which was in about nineteen hours. Petunia also explained that it seemed this bargain was struck at 'The Blood Pit'. The only thing we had learnt about The Blood Pit is; 'Adding your blood to the pit acts like a wishing well, apparently'.
So off to The Blood pit we went.
The Blood Pit
Arriving at The Blood Pit, we found it to be a peculiar place. The Blood Pit was described as a 'wishing well' and that's what it looked like. Well, except for the layers of dried and caked blood coated all over the well's rim. There was also a nauseatingly disgusting odour emanating from it. Reluctantly, we peered into pit and it was indeed filled with a dark, viscous liquid, blood.
Finally we noticed that there were quite a few tramps loitering around the pit.
Soon after our arrival, a man came shambling up to The Blood Pit. He stretched an arm over the it and opened a vein! A fair amount of blood dripped into pit until suddenly his arms were filled with sacks of gold! As he departed, he flipped a generous number of coins to the tramps and beggars, so that's why they were here.
A few minutes after the man's departure, a demonic thing came crawling out of The Blood Pit! It's scales were slick with dripping blood and it stalked off in the same direction as the man. We were quite taken aback and before we could formulate any response we heard chilling screams coming from that direction.
Soon the demon came slinking back. In one clawed hand is held a small and pulsating organ of some kind. We could hear a wailing cry coming from the object as the demon clambered back down into The Blood Pit and sunk back down.
Well, we didn't learn much about the glyph of bargaining here. We did however get a very good idea of what was going to happen in less than nineteen hours time!
The Broken Kirk
Help is what we needed. We considered our options and one of those was 'The Broken Kirk'. Apparently it was 'Once a grand church, now a barely rebuilt ruin. The last Priests of the Seven Tongues have a base here'.
Although we knew nothing of these priests, they might have some knowledge or skill that could be used against our infernal enemy.
The Broken Kirk was indeed as described. These were the shattered remains of massive and elaborate structure from times past. In amongst these ruins an effort had been made to build a new church, but it was less than spectacular. Living amongst these ruins were a band of priests and acolytes. We were introduced to their leader 'Archpriest Gergun Spittlewood'.
Once Gergun had heard the tale of our predicament, he was eager to help and committed his men and himself to our cause.
Gergun has some sort of magical aptitude, he blessed Randulf's sword, which grew in power and began to glow piously.
We gave Gergun one of our garden gnomes in exchange for another blessing on Randulf's shield, but the blessing failed. It was not to be.
Gergun said that they would begin to sing and dance until the appointed time and were looking forward to the coming battle against the forces of darkness. Despite their positive attitude, we could not help but notice that they were a little shambolic. It did little to raise our hopes.
Leaving Gergun and his men to their singing and dancing, we travelled back to the Fiddler's Quarrel in Darkholme looking for more allies.
The barkeep did not look happy to see us, but we ignored him and headed down into the basement. Looking around, it seemed a little different down here. The rat-men were in the process of packing all their gear up and the tunnel to The Cursed Monastery had been barricaded. We also noticed a pile of corpses in a corner!
The rat-men explained that the barkeep had sent a band of mercenaries down here to 'deal with them', but things hadn't worked out so well for the mercenaries. The rat-men also told us that they had eaten one hundred coins worth of food and drink from the basement and it was time to leave and find some adventure!
This seemed like an auspicious moment to us and we asked the rat-men to join our cause. Their only demand was that they received a fair share of whatever loot we found. We agreed and they finished packing up their kit and came with us.
Roland, Roderick, Roger and Rory joined our company.
Looking for allies
Our next port of call was 'The Garrison', all we knew about The Garrison was that it was commanded by 'Moon Sirencall'. A garrison should be a good place to recruit people for a battle.
Moon was a sturdy, reliable looking halfling. Unfortunately, she could not provide us with any help. She explained that the vast majority of her guards were corrupt and could not be trusted in a vital situation. Particularly one that involved some sort of demon!
Moon suggested that if we were looking for fighters to try the dwarfs from 'Dredgeside Docks' or the smugglers at Fiddler's Quarrel. - So that's goes on behind the door in Fiddler's Quarrel.
It did not seem likely to us that we would be likely to be able to recruit either of these to groups to our cause. Instead we decided to look for Pendolin, no doubt he would need help. But where to look, the only clue we had led us to a village two days out of Darkholme. There was less than a day until the bargain expired, it was not viable to go to the village.
Petunia was a wizard and she could help us, or so our reasoning went.
Upon returning to The Spire, Petunia cast a scry spell. It turned out that Pendolin was a lot closer than we had been led to believe, close to Darkholme in fact. There was something blocking the scry spell and Petunia could not get an exact fix on the location, only that it was someplace 'in the dark'?
Petunia said that she could teleport us close by, if that's what we wanted. It was what we wanted, so Petunia cast a teleportation circle spell and off to this 'mysterious place' we went.
Urham cast a light spell. We were in an chamber somewhere and in one corner was Pendolin Washer! He was sitting there in a protective magic circle made of his lucky charms and looked quite surprised to see us. Personally I did not rate that his magic circle would provide much in the way of protection.
We explained to Pendolin that we knew about the red-man and that we intended to battle him along with the priests of Seven Tongues. Next we asked Pendolin where we were and he told us we were at The Broken Kirk - that was convenient!
The battle with the demon
There was six hours to go. We went and joined the others and prepared to battle. We would confront the red-man and the rat-men would hide in the darkness and attack from range. The acolytes were also prepared.
I noticed that there was a difference between acolytes of the Seven Tongues and the cultists of Conrad the Crazed. Cultists wielded wicked curved daggers. Acolytes wielded wicked curved holy daggers! Much better!
During the wait we concocted a cunning plan to deal with the demon. Uusing Urham's remaining bottles of goblin moonshine to give the red-man a surprise. Archpriest Gergun agreed to help us with this.
Exactly on time, the red-man appeared from the darkness. From behind his protective circle, Pendolin shouted. "I'm glad you're here. I've brought four innocent souls for you!" And he pointed at us! So much for Pendolin.
The red-man asked us if we were willing to be part of the bargain, we replied by saying definitely not.
Urham gave Gergun a glass of moonshine. Gergun would share this drink with the red-man as a gesture of success. Gergun took a sip before handing it over and said. "I like this." Before finishing the entire glass. So much for Gergun.
Urham interceded and gave a bottle of the moonshine to the red-man. The red-man drank all of it and said that he liked it very much and would 'spare' Urham. Now that the pleasantries were dispensed with, the battle ensued.
Egbert struck the red-man with a hold spell and attacked. Randulf charged and attacked. Urham cast smite and attacked.
I attacked. From range, the Rat-men attacked. The acolytes charged in and mobbed the red-man, then attacked. We all attacked!
In the following moments, the red-man shrugged off the hold spell and began attacking the acolytes. The mobbing acolytes had made it hard for anyone to get in an attack. Randulf had to pull acolytes off in order to get at the red-man. Meanwhile the red-man deflected Egbert's smite spell. I was forced to take flight to attack. The rat-men just attacked anyway.
In the next few moments, we managed to defeat the red-man, who fell to the ground in a spectacular supernatural explosion. Victory!
The din of battle faded away and suddenly we heard a hideous scream behind us. The red-man, clearly now in perfect health was standing over the crumpled form of Pendolin. In one clawed hand he held a pulsating and wailing soul...
Poor Pendolin, neither his charms nor his luck were ever any good.
"That was a fun battle." Said the red-man. "Now I must be off to The Halfmoon Forest to get more moonshine!".
"I think I'll join you." Added Archpriest Gergun.
The pair of them headed off to The Halfmoon Forest together...
We thought it best not to comment.
The Seven Fingers
With the curse lifted, we were at a loss for what to do next.
Logic - or at least our version of logic dictated that we go somewhere new. And that new place was 'The Seven Fingers'
Described as: 'Seven standing stones on the outskirts of the town'. I looked forward to seeing this monument.
We arrived at The Seven Fingers without incident. I must admit that I was slightly disappointed to find only six standing stones.
A cursory examination revealed that one of the stones had been removed. I searched for tracks and found a great number of them as well as indications of some sort of sled being utilised.
The evidence indicated that the missing stone had been toppled on to a sled and dragged away by a great many individuals.
Detect magic was cast on the tracks and there was definitely some traces of magic to the them.
The tracks led to 'The Boneyard' and we followed. The Boneyard was described as 'A gravesite where hundreds were buried
after the Night War'. There was what looked like a freshly constructed earth mound here. Atop the mound was the missing standing stone. Littered around the stone were a number of fresh bodies. That had clearly been ritually sacrificed in some way in the service of an unholy rite. Further examination revealed much of the ground around this mound had been heavily disturbed in some way. There were a large number of confusing footprints here.
It was at about this time that we realised how quiet The Boneyard was, there were no animals here nor twittering birdsong. It was devoid of living things.
Nefarious unholy rituals have a tendency to occur during the hours of night. We decided to hide and wait until sunset. The Boneyard was a flat region that pretty much lacked vegetation, so we hid a little way from the mound and waited.
The sun crawled across the sky and sunk in the west as bright day gave way to inky night. From our position, we saw the earth around the mound churn and and seethe. Then groups of skeleton emerged and clambered from the ground and even a sled appeared. They numbered around two hundred in total, the majority of the skeletons took the sled and headed for The Seven Fingers. But group of about a dozen skeletons headed out in a different direction. It was obvious that they were going in search of victims for their ritual. We gave chase and intercepted them before they reached any village or settlement. Urham cast fireball on the band of skeletons and they were obliterated!
Returning to our hiding spot, we had to wait a while for the other skeletons to return with another standing stone and to begin raising it. After this, they seemed to be standing around waiting, no doubt expecting the other skeletons to return with sacrifices.
After a further length of time, another group of a dozen skeletons detached itself from the main mob and headed after the first small group. The mob of skeletons appeared to be acting in a coordinated and intelligent manner. We could not see if they had a leader or were being directed.
Regardless of this, we had to follow the second group and eliminate it. Which we did with another judicious use of the fireball spell. Our attention was drawn to the shattered remains of the previous group. The broken fragments were somehow slowly moving and rolling together! Given enough time, no doubt this would result in their eventual reconstruction. A well placed dispel magic spell put an end to that though!
Once again we returned to our hiding spot to see the skeletons waiting. After some time we saw another figure appear, this time on the mound. Wreathed in weird, flickering green flames, adorned with a ornately decorated robe and with a skull for a head. There was no question what this was; a lich!
We watched as the lich ordered a third band of a dozen skeletons off - this time in a different direction. We moved to intercept the third group, if things continued like this, we would whittle down the numbers quite well.
As we reached the third band, Egbert cast fireball on them, but the spell was deflected back at us! Fortunately for us, with an exemplary display of quick wits Urham cast a counterspell and the fireball was dissipated. It was now that the lich appeared in a flash of green light and attacked. Randulf and I were subjected to a hold spell and rooted to the spot. Luckily Randulf was freed by a dispel magic spell and charged in.
In true barbarian form, Randulf grabbed the lich's skull head and ripped it off! The lich's body was still staggering around looking for its head and the skull blasted Randulf with eye-beams!
Meanwhile, the skeletons mobbed the other party members. Urham and Egbert blasted them with smite spells and the rat-men joined the melee.
The skull was struggling in Randulf's grip, but he managed to land a mighty roundhouse kick on the lich's body, which turned out out to empty robes which fluttered to the ground. The melee with the skeletons continued and I was repeatedly struck in my paralysed state. Eventually they were all destroyed.
We were now faced with a dilemma. We had the lich's skull with us, but we knew it could not be permanently destroyed. We had to destroy the lich's 'soul-jar' to destroy the lich. This would be tricky whilst carrying around a maniacal skull! We needed to get rid of the skull.
After a quick discussion, we had a plan. Egbert cast a teleportation circle that took us the The Blood Pit and we dropped the skull into the well. It might be have been my imagination, but I thought I heard a long drawn out swear word reverberating out of the pit before it was cut off by a loud plop noise!
The lich's lair
Then Urham cast another teleportation circle that took us to The Boneyard. A streak of light in the eastern sky revealed that dawn was nearly upon us and the skeletons were returning themselves to their earthy resting places. We had no time to spare and searched the mound. At the top we found a trapdoor.
Behind the trapdoor were a set of steps, we followed them and they spiralled down a long way and ended in a constructed room. In the centre stood a sarcophagus and to one side a pedestal with a book.
Rushing to the sarcophagus, we opened it and found a headless body within; the lich's body. Sensibly and as would be expected; we set fire to it. Egbert examined the book. It was called 'The Hand of Gollus: The Fallen God'. It was a treatise on assembling the seven fingers into the hand of Gollus and using blood sacrifices to resurrect him. It turned out that Gollus had seven fingers on one hand. Who knew? Useful when making rude and inappropriate gestures I guess.
I was unconvinced that we had neutralised the lich and we searched the chamber for signs of anything else. There was something strange about the sarcophagus, something underneath it? Flexing bulging, oiled muscles, Randulf stepped forward to move the sarcophagus - and failed. It was left to scrawny Egbert to move it.
Once moved, another trapdoor was revealed. There were more steps that led down to small room. Within was a glowing jar!
We rushed to destroy it.
It was then that a bloody and grinning flying skull swooped down the steps. The lich had returned and it was moving to attack! Final blows were landed on the soul-jar and it was shattered. The skull was equally shattered before it could attack.
With the threat of the lich now removed, the two standing stones could be moved back to their original location unhurriedly.
There was also the question of; 'what should be done with the book?'. Ultimately, we decided to take it to Petunia at The Spire.
Petunia paid us handsomely for it.
Now that there were no pressing matters, we discussed how we were going to deal with the giant golden chicken eggs we had left at The Cursed Monastery. Our greatest concern was unsuccessfully casting charm creature spells.
Petunia informed us that casting a spell via a wand was always accurate, Petunia then told us that she could provide us with a wand of charm creature, but of course it would come at a cost. Petunia wanted a 'griffin's skull'! We tried to haggle with her and even offered her another garden gnome, but her mind was made up. A griffin's skull is what she wanted. Where to acquire a griffin's skull?
There was only one place we could think of: The eponymous 'Skull Hill'. Described as 'A hill of varied skulls to the north of the city'. It seemed the place to go. Leaving Darkholme we came across a hill and on that hill was another hill... A hill of skulls!
There was an incalculable number of skulls of all kinds here, finding a griffin skull would take an eternity. But that's why we have mages! Urham cast identify and located a griffin skull. It was nestled almost at the bottom of the skull hill with possibly thousands of other skulls piled on top of it.
It would take a lot of muscle to pull if free of the other skulls. Once more, flexing bulging, oiled muscles, Randulf stepped forward to remove the skull - and failed. Once more, it was left to scrawny Egbert to retrieve the skull.
A few moments after getting the skull, we heard a strange rumbling, toppling noise coming from Skull Hill. The whole hill was beginning to tremble and shake. A few skulls tumbled and bounced down the slope and then a few more and then the slope buckled and collapsed in on itself and the avalanche began!
Urham and I both flew above the avalanche, taking rat-men with us and Randulf bounded out of the way effortlessly. Unfortunately, whilst still gripping the griffin skull, Egbert was caught up by the avalanche of skulls and badly battered as he swept down the hill. Luckily, as Egbert slid past, Randulf managed to pluck him out of the flow of skulls.
From my vantage point, I could see that the avalanche was crashing down towards a small village at the base of the hill. Who knew the weight the avalanche carried, it might destroy the village.
A house on the outskirts of the village was closest to the hill and would be the first hit. Quick as I could, I flew down, dropped down the rat-men on the roof and instructed the occupants to climb on to the roof, but they refused. Just because there was a rat-man on the roof! Egbert managed to cast a teleportation circle spell and got the villagers to safety before the avalanche hit.
There was an almighty roar when the avalanche struck the house. Fortuitously, the skulls were scattered and dispersed when they hit the house, taking the energy out of the avalanche. The few skulls that rolled into the village proper did no damage.
Unfortunately, the first house was more or less flattened and only a few bricks remained standing. Urham gave the occupants a generous amount of coin to pay for the rebuilding. Looking around, aftermath of the avalanche had left thousands upon thousands of skulls scattered down the hill, throughout the village and across the landscape. It was a mess, no doubt about it. Let's just say that Urham's unseen servant would have its work cut out for it!
Upon our return to The Spire, Petunia took the griffin skull and gave us a wand with a charm creature spell embedded within.
The golden eggs
Sixteen days passed.
It was time for the giant golden chicken eggs to hatch, so we returned to The Cursed Monastery and went into the chapel's bell tower. There we found the giant eggs, still safe beneath the still slumbering owlbear. Realising that it would be impossible to charm the chicks with them beneath the owlbear, we moved them from out of the nest and into another chamber.
After waiting patiently for a while, the eggs began to show signs of hatching. We left only Urham and Egbert in the chamber. When the eggs did finally hatch and the giant chicks emerged, one each 'imprinted' on Urham and Egbert. Urham got the hen. Egbert got the cock.
When we took them into the courtyard and under the sky, the giant cock began to chirp loudly and distinctly. We heard distant thunder.
The Cloud Giant
Looking into the now darkening sky, we could see clouds rushing to gather above us, beginning to blot out the sun. The thunder continued, it was closer now and stranger too, almost like rumbling words being spoken? This was not a good sign. It was decided that we should teleport somewhere safe and far away. Milo's tower was safe and far away. Egbert's teleportation circle took all of us there, even the owlbear.
Milo was somewhat surprised to see us, but remained unflustered. We told Milo of our predicament and he explained that he could not help us and this was our problem to solve. Milo continued that a battle against the giant would be a mighty challenge, perhaps beyond us. We might have to try and negotiate with the giant. But we would need to negotiate from a position of strength.
We considered our position and devised a plan. After all this, the owlbear was still sleeping. We asked Milo to wake it so we could cast charm creature on it. When we had control of the owlbear, we had Milo put us aboard a magic carpet and teleport us back to The Cursed Monastery.
The sky was thick with clouds and the silhouetted outline of the giant castle could just about be discerned. From the flying carpet, we could see that the giant was beginning to materialise above the town.
Randulf mounted the owlbear and they leapt off the magic carpet and flew towards the giant. As the giant finished materialising, Randulf pulled the gorgon head from out of its sack and held it before the giant.
Randulf almost felt the head tremble as it worked its cursed magic. We could all see the giant now as it transformed from flesh to stone. It broke up into a thousand pieces and fell to earth in a massive rockfall.
The giant was defeated!
The realisation dawned on us that they cloud castle was now empty - save for the giant chicken.
It was our castle now.
The skies became calmer now that the giant was vanquished, the storm clouds evaporated into nothingness and the thunder faded into memory.
Clear blue was the sky and glorious was the sunlight which blazed warmly upon us as we flew towards the castle.
The castle which hung in the sky and sat on a foundation of purest white cotton clouds. It's tall spires gleamed brilliantly as every window and tile reflected the shining sun and pennants danced in the breeze.
As we landed in the cobbled courtyard, we knew our days of adventure and hardship were behind us.
We had come a long way from first wandering into little Boburn and heading off to rescue Brenda the cow, but a new bright path beckoned us - that of our new home. A place where we would be comfortable and secure - and wealthy too, thanks the giant chicken that laid golden eggs!
Along with our friends and companions; Brenda the prize winning cow, Glenda the horse and Roland, Roderick, Roger and Rory. It was here that we spent the rest of our days.
Urham, Egbert the Undecided, Randulf Rawhide and I, Cosmo Naught.
In Darkest Warrens, an explanation
In Darkest Warrens a very light RPG, condensed into 2 pages or so.
PCs have 4 stats, each with an associated value. All tasks are assigned to one of these 4 stats. To succeed, all a player needs to do is roll equal to or above the value (So lower values are better.).
There are 5 professions, each profession grants a player a special ability that they can use once per combat
Magic is equally as simple and elegant. Magic users can cast each spell they know once per combat, but if they fail to cast it, they don't lose the spell and can try to cast it again (Until they succeed at it.).
I could write more, but it would probably end up longer than the actual rules.
Suffice to say that these rules are designed for quick 'pick-up-and-play' fun and not long term play.
So on with adventure and exploration!
Because of lockdown we're playing over Skype, a new experience for us. (No Mark for this episode).
The red visitor
Pendolin Washer, purveyor of lucky charms
Player Handout #1 What you know about Darkholme.
THE BROKEN KIRK
Once a grand church, now a barely rebuilt ruin. The last Priests of the Seven Tongues have a base here.
A shabby tavern where ruffians go to drown their sorrows and fight each other.
THE OBSIDIAN TOWER
Home to the Regent of Darkholme, Duke Elris Barrow.
A rather pleasant Inn (for Darkholme) and a favourite of travellers passing through.
Captain Moon Sirencall.
THE DIRT MARKET
Only ever takes place in the muddy square when it rains.
Sitting a mile out of the town, flanking the main trade road, the haunt of the Biletongue goblins.
The docks are home to sailors, ruffians and general ne'er-do-wells.
THE SEVEN FINGERS
Seven standing stones on the outskirts of the town.
A gravesite where hundreds were buried after the Night War.
Owned by a lonely elf mage called Petunia Rootlocks.
A lane in the southern part of the city where visitors get mugged.
A hill of varied skulls to the north of the city.
Probably a misnomer. A picnic area popular with courting couples
Adding your blood to the pit acts like a wishing well, apparently.
A shocked owlbear
Milo The Arch-Mage, Sunderer Of Crowns, Milo to his friends
The Cloud Giant appears
The Gorgon's head
'In Darkest Warrens' turned out to be a fun and unobtrusive system. It proved an excellent choice when we were learning to play our first ever sessions over video chat. Light and flexible, we easily picked it up as we are all experienced role players.
I'd like thank Matakishi for creating and running these adventures. As well as rolling with some of our more... interesting ideas.
I'd like to thank Michaela, Mark and Kevin for their fine companionship.
Buy your own copy of In Darkest Warrens for not much money
These write-ups are taken from Three Spellcasters and a Dwarf