Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Time of the Tarrasque #9: I Double Dog Dare You

A two-headed death dog (built from two LOTR wargs)
Previous Sessions: 
After spending the day getting some much-needed rest and healing, Jumari [half-orc inquisitor] led the party back to the city wall to try to find the tracks of the large wolf once again. This time, they searched the ground outside the city, and despite the time that had passed, Jubair [human rogue] and Lucretia [half-elf monk] were able to locate faint paw prints. Jumari followed the tracks into the hills to the east of town, They eventually veered northward towards the main eastward trail from Zahallan, which the tracks followed. The wolf had turned aside from the trail a few times but always gone back to it. 

Around dawn, the party found a campsite a short ways off the trail that had obviously been used by their quarry. There was no trace of a fire, but they found bloody bandages and more tracks: boots that probably belonged to the wolf's master, plus halfling-sized footprints. There were also tracks that looked humanoid but with long nails or claws. Only the last set of prints, and the wolf's, left the camp. 

The party continued on a couple hours past sunrise, then found shelter and rested during the hottest and brightest part of the day. When night came, Lucretia lost sight of the tracks in the dark, despite her elven sight, but Jumari had no problems following them.

Grr! (Grr!) Fighting the death dog 
Late that night, the party spotted a large animal--a massive two-headed dog--lurking behind a rocky outcropping near the trail. Its hunger and impatience made it too eager to attack, and it failed to surprise them. The party reacted quickly, closing the distance. The dog rushed at Jubair and Jumari, who were closest to it, and bit each of them with a different head. ZhaZha [half-orc cavalier] closed in and flanked it, impaling it upon her lance from behind. The beast fell dead as the other heroes caught up to their companions. Fatou [human wizard/cleric] identified it as a death dog, an intelligent evil hound that carried disease. She and Edel [elf bard] examined their friends' wounds, and were relieved to see no signs of the wormpox infection that clearly riddled the death dog's flesh. Edel warned the others not to touch the corpse, for their own safety.[1] Jumari searched the area where the death dog had hidden, and concluded that it had been waiting there for some time, after coming here from the south. Its prints were much easier to find than the wolf they were following, so the death dog must outweigh it.

The wolf tracks did not lead to another campsite before dawn. Their quarry was almost certainly getting further away, as the wolf and its rider did not appear to be taking any special pains to hide its trail. By the next dawn, the party thought they must be getting near the village of Spine Hollow. Fatou was the only one of them who knew anything about the place: it was a tiny settlement of nature worshipers, some of whom occasionally visited Zahallan, but mostly kept to themselves. Her best guess about their religion was that it was of a druidic bent, as opposed to the elemental gods worshiped by the desert giants.

Early that morning, the tracks left the trail to go north. An hour or two later, Jumari spotted a lion moving along a nearby ridge, keeping pace with the party. She warned the others, some of whom say it eventually. ZhaZha and Fatou could see that it was only the size of a pony, not a full-grown lion, and bore a halfling rider. Jubair was bored and irritable by this time, so turned aside to confront the halfling. The lion and rider stopped, allowing the party to get a better view of them. The halfling wore lion hides as armor and carried a spear. Jubair accosted him in the Halfling language, but the rider only asked him their business here--these hills were Spine Hollow territory. Fatou translated this exchange for the others, and Edel promptly chimed in to try a more diplomatic approach, in Common. The bard explained that they hunted a desecrater of graves, who rode a large wolf. The halfling seemed relieved to have someone more friendly to talk to, and replied that a wolf had passed through here, with two riders (one his size, one their size). The one who told him about it had said it was no natural animal, but misty or ghost-like. Another creature, that was both like a man and not, traveled with them but the halfling's source couldn't describe it better. When asked about the Ghost Fist Clan, he didn't recognize the name. 

Edel asked if the party could speak to the one who saw it. The halfling replied that--he gave a name, in an unknown language made of clicks and whistles--did not speak with outsiders. They thanked the halfing and left, but soon had to look for a camp to rest during the midday. During this time, their finally saw signs that the wolf and its master were trying to hide their tracks--probably to avoid notice by the Hollow's inhabitants--but Jumari was still able to follow them. The tracks also stopped going due north, at least in part due to the rough, rocky badlands here, but possibly also to dodge pursuit. 

Around midnight. Lucretia caught a glimpse of the wolf as it passed through a low spot between two ridges. She led the party that way, and was soon able to see the wolf again, with its two riders, and a humanoid figure loping alongside them. The walker turned and froze upon noticing her, warned its companions, then headed towards the party. Fatou blessed the heroes, who moved forward to engage the enemy.

Battle with the wolf rider, alchemist, and undead.
The wolf's master, a half-orc with his face painted white like a skull, cast a spell, summoning a skeletal aurochs. This bull charged and gored Edel, who fell unconscious from the hard blow. Jumari cast shield of faith upon herself, and she and Jubair and closed with the skeleton. As expected, the other rider was Jibral, the halfling alchemist they had fought before. He started casting protective spells upon himself, starting with sanctuary, and argued with the half-orc between spells. 

ZhaZha charged the unknown humanoid creature, who turned out to be the same kind of ghoul-thing that they had fought outside the alchemist's shop. She speared with with her lance, but it decided to attack her camel instead, mauling it ferociously. The wolf-rider hit ZhaZha with a magic ray that sickened her.  

Fatou channeled healing magic for her friends, which roused Edel and put the camel out of imminent danger of collapse. Jumari switched from longspear to morningstar and finished off the skeleton, which crumbled away to dust. Lucretia shot the ghoul--which exploded in a cloud of ash like before--and also hit the ghostly black wolf. Its master cast protection from arrows on his mount, but Fatou finished it off with a force bolt. The wolf evaporated into mist, dropping its riders to the ground.

The skull-faced half-orc quickly stood and cast a spell that created a pit beneath Jubair, but the rogue nimbly dodged aside. Both ZhaZha and Jubair charged forward to strike him.  Edel cast grease under both enemy casters, and the halfling fell prone again. ZhaZha missed Jibral as he stood up and fled, so she pursued him.

The wolf-rider attacked Jubair with a flail, but Jumari charged him, and he withdrew. This gave Jubair room to charge him and hit again. Edel's acid splash and Fatou's force bolt finished him off. The rogue performed a coup de grace to make sure that the half-orc was truly dead.

Meanwhile, ZhaZha pursued the fleeing halfling, but Jibral's expeditious retreat spell made him even faster than her camel. She switched to her crossbow, but failed to hit him. The alchemist slowed enough to cast cause fear on the camel, but the animal resisted (just barely, thanks to bless!). The cavalier closed with him, preventing him from being able to withdraw safely. He cast a doom spell on her, making her shaken (on top of already being sickened). The camel spit on Jibral, making him sickened as well. The halfling then used ghoul touch against ZhaZha, paralyzing her--and sickening her camel from the stench she gave off [2]. The camel bit Jibral as he fled, which toppled the helpless cavalier to the ground, but it also finally downed the alchemist.

ZhaZha recovered a few minutes later, but neither she nor the others reached Jibral's body before he bled out. He had acquired a new unholy symbol: a black-stained wooden disk with the word "IZAZ" carved into it in Orcish. The thief Rozhelle, who the party had captured and turned over to the authorities a few weeks before, had claimed to be hired by a half-orc by that name. 

(L-R): aurochs skeleton, ghoul, ghostly wolf, unnamed half-orc summoner, and Jibral the alchemist

[1] Edel's player: "Except for Jubair. I don't bother warning him, because he never listens anyway."

Other players (chanting): "Touch it! Touch it!" 

Edel's player: "I double dog dare you!" (And thus was our title bestowed.)

[2] There were a lot of conditions inflicted this session! I had recently bought Pathfinder Cards: Condition Cards after seeing them used in Pathfinder Society games, and this was the first session we used them in my home game. These cards provide an easy-to-use rules reference for each condition, and their bright colors make it harder to miss that a condition is still in play. I also want to acquire the Buff Deck, but that's out of print, so I haven't found it for sale at anything remotely resembling a reasonable price yet.

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