25 August 2007

The Earthquake (I): First Impressions

Earlier on, I described how the remaining members of the original Party – Breygon (Half-Elf Ranger 5), Gwendilyne (Halfling Rogue 5) and Joraz (Human Monk 5) – were inducted into the Brotherhood of the Wyrm by Cymballa, the hot warrior in the disturbingly snug plate armour. I also described (in what is probably far too much detail) how the new Party members – Bjorn (Human Fighter 2 / Cleric 2) and Lyra (Hiarsk Rogue 1 / Sorceress 3) – met each other; and how, travelling southwards (Lyra to escape the wrath of someone she had annoyed and to meet this Party, of which she was to be the new primary spellcaster; and Bjorn, to find the quarter he was supposed to sustain with his faith “against the encroaching darkness”), they felt an earthquake one morning, and then came upon a bedraggled woman digging in a fresh-fallen landslide blocking the Nordvej about a mile south of Ganesford.

MAP: The Sweetvale River Valley

The woman in question was one Ankallys of Vejborg, who turned out to be something of a spiritual sister to Lyra: a rogue/wizard with a flexible idea of party loyalty. As an orphaned street urchin in the rough-and-tumble port district of the coastal city of Vejborg, she became an accomplished confidence artist and cat burglar, eventually becoming skilled enough to support herself and an extensive chain of younger apprentices. All of that came crashing to a halt, however, when she made the mistake of attempting to burgle the tower of Oras Rathorn, a renowned and reclusive wizard and sage.

Rathorn caught her in the act; but rather than turn her over to the authorities, he made her his unwilling assistant, working her to exhaustion cleaning every nook and cranny of his enormous stronghold. She paid close attention to the wizard’s workings, however, and eventually she gained enough skill to cast her first cantrips. At this point, Rathorn, ever in need of competent help, freed her and began instructing her full-time in the arcane arts.

Ankallys soon demonstrated an aptitude for finding things out, and so he focussed on training her as a diviner, and made her his assistant in what turned out to be his true profession: treasure-hunter. By the age of eighteen, three years after her arrival, she was competent enough to join him on his excursions; and by 20, she was his full-time chief-of-staff. Her thieving skills gave her an extra edge when penetrating complex or dangerous areas, and Oras came to rely on her completely – until the day he got himself killed.

Despite being attractive, Ankallys tends to take a lackadaisical approach to her appearance, finding beauty more of a hindrance than a help in her chosen life. Very slender and of middling height with curly brown hair and hazel eyes, she tends towards scholarly garb when working at Rathorn’s keep; but when adventuring, she hauls out her old cat-burglar’s gear, including her trusty rapier, tool kit, and enchanted Vest of Getting Out of Tight Spots. Although she prefers to run rather than fight, she is a competent swordswoman and a reasonably good shot with the bow. When she tries, she can make good use of her pleasant features and personality to talk her way out of difficult situations; but she usually doesn’t try.

Ankallys of Vejborg
(NG Zaran Human Female, Rogue 1 / Wizard 3)

Stats: Human Female, 5’6”, 113 lbs, 20 yrs old
Hit Dice: 1d6+3d4 (16 HP)
Initiative: +4 (Dex)
Speed: 30’
Armor Class: 15 (+4 Dex, +1 Ring)
BAB/Grp: +2/+4
Attacks: MW Rapier or Dagger +4 melee, MW Comp Shortbow +6 ranged
Damage: MW Rapier 1d6+2, MW Dagger 1d4+2, MW Shortbow 1d6
Face/Reach: 5’x5’/5’
Saves: F+1, R+7, W+2
Abilities: Str 14, Dex 18, Con 11, Int 17, Wis 9, Cha 16
Alignment: Neutral Good
Feats: Dodge, Skill Focus (Disable Device), Spell Focus (Divination), Scribe Scroll
Languages: Common, Draconic, Dwarven, Elven
Class skills: Sneak Attack +1d6, find and disable traps
MW Rapier, MW Dagger, MW Comp Shortbow, Ring of Protection (+1), Vest of Escape
Skills: Appraise+4(7), Balance+4(8), Bluff+4(7), Climb+4(6), Disable Device+4(9), Escape Artist+4(14), Hide+4(8), Jump+4(6), Knowledge(Engineering)+3(6), Knowledge(History)+3(6), Knowledge(Arcana)+6(9), Move Silently+4(8), Open Lock+4(12), Search+4(7), Spellcraft+6(9), Tumble+4(8)
Spells: 0: 4+1, 1: 3+1, 2: 2+1
Acid Splash, Arcane Mark, Dancing Lights, Daze, Detect Magic(*), Detect Poison(*), Disrupt Undead, Flare, Ghost Sound, Light, Mage Hand, Mending, Message, Open/Close, Prestidigitation, Ray of Frost, Read Magic(*), Resistance, Touch of Fatigue
Animate Rope, Comprehend Languages(*), Detect Secret Doors(*), Detect Undead(*), Feather Fall, Hold Portal, Identify(*), Jump, Mage Armour, Tenser’s Disk
Continual Flame, Darkvision, Detect Thoughts(*), Gust of Wind, Invisibility, Knock, Levitate, Locate Object(*), See Invisibility(*)

* * * * *

Ankallys’ sorry state and her tragic tale touched Bjorn’s heart and Lyra’s curiosity (and possibly her avarice as well; after all, there was a wizard buried under all that detritus and marl), and so the pair dismounted, secured their horses, and began to dig, concentrating in the area where Ankallys thought the camp had been. While they were working, Ankallys explained that she had been away from the camp when the earthquake had occurred, high in the hills overlooking the river valley, searching for herbs for use in healing, in cooking, and to serve as spell components. She explained that her master, whom she called “Magister Oras”, and his party had been here for nearly a month, engaged in trying to uncover part of the hillside above the road. This explanation was borne out when Bjorn and Lyra took a more careful look at the raw cliff-face exposed by the landslide, and saw a broad, rectilinear cave opening stretching deep into the hillside. The nature of the opening became more clear when the diggers discovered what was unmistakeably a carved stone pillar; and equally unmistakeably, finely-cut tiles and building stones, and finally an intricately carved a stone sarcophagus, half-buried in the jumble of stone and dirt.

Ignoring the tempting cave opening in hopes of finding survivors alive, the three unearthed a few miscellaneous articles – blankets, shovels, a bucket – and the corpse of one of the miners, but found nothing else. Bjorn expressed his fear that most of Ankallys’ comrades were either buried too far down to reach, or had been swept into the river to be washed away or drowned.

Around about mid-afternoon, as they continued to dig despite fading hopes, the original party rode over the hill from the south, and saw the landslide and the three filthy figures struggling in the dirt. Breygon,Gwen, Joraz and Greywind approached cautiously, introduced themselves, discovered what was happening, and offered their aid. Lyra noticed the Party’s composition and immediately raised her left palm, intoning the Draconic phrase of introduction (which, in case you'd forgotten, is Veli lohikäärme, huoltaja hyvyys), and all three of the newcomers reciprocated.

The combined group toiled in the mud-heap for a few more hours before reluctantly giving up. Exhausted, they decided to sleep overnight and examine the cave in the morning light. They set a watch, just in case, and settled down for a night that ended up being punctuated by weird moans and other spooky noises emanating from the mouth of the cave. And, of course, it rained (I’m a great believer in the pathetic fallacy).

The next morning they rose with the dawn, breakfasted, broke camp, and addressed them to the deep, dank, dark, inviting adventure hook – sorry, I meant “buried temple” – lying a hundred meters up the stone-swept and muddy hillside.
More to follow...