Journey to Thwil Tower
Cast of Characters:
Winter – a solemn, pale-as-snow she-elf warrior with a past and an ax to grind.
Four-Finger Jeff – a smooth talking male human rogue with sticky fingers.
Thurgel Bardson – a jovial Dwarven bard whose song is as sweet as his ax is sharp.
Rispah – an elusive she-elf mage with a strong talent for the arcane arts.
Back at the Grey Pheasant the four adventurers poured over the map of the Isles they’d just acquired. Beyond the city of Thild and a few surrounding townships it was fairly empty. One of the few locales of note listed on the map was Thwil tower (Hex 1306). All agreed that it seemed worth exploring and decided to make for the town of Swiftriver (Hex 1108) after the midday meal and thence to journey to the tower on the following morn.
Meanwhile Four-fingered Jeff, still coinless, was made to work in the kitchen helping prepare the midday meal and clean dishes. Always looking to turn a profit Jeff began filching food from the larder. He ate a boiled duck egg that must have sat out for too long because it ended up coming right back up, along with everything else in him. After a couple of unpleasant hours spent transmuting the contents of his stomach, Jeff told the party they might as well head out without him. They’d just have to meet him back at the tavern whenever they got back into town (Referee’s Note – we were a player short this session, hence Jeff’s untimely bout of food poisoning).
The rest of the party set out for Swiftriver that same hour. There were no major roads south of the city, just a few dirt paths leading to nearby villages. Rather than follow the coastline to the head of the Sevlen river and then continuing along the river inland toward town, they decided to cut inland and do a bit of exploring along the journey (Hex 1107).
The storm had let up but rain still pelted down upon the party as they trudged through muddy fields and past flocks of brown sheep. A couple of hours into their journey Rispah noticed what appeared to be an odd thin rock formation jutting out of the ground off in the distance. As they approached they discovered that in fact it was the rib cage of an enormous creature. The creature must have lain here for some time because most of its skeletal carcass was buried beneath meters of dirt.
Rispah identified the bones as belonging to a massive dragon, the likes of which had not been seen in the north for well over a millennium. This was a serendipitous discovery. As everyone knows, dragons are the very incarnation of magic, and even after death this magic can be harnessed for all manner of arcane pursuits. Though time had leached much of the magic potency from these bones they could still be ground to make runic dust (Referee’s Note – I have elected to use spell points as opposed to Vancian magic in my campaign setting, and runic dust is a magic substance that can substitute for spell points).
Thurgel noted the location of the bones on the map. They’d certainly be returning to this spot in the future to harvest the bones. For the time being he just hacked off a sample of the bones and the party continued on their way.
A few muddy hours later the party reached the Sevlen river and followed it east to the town of Swiftriver. The town bordered the northern side of Sevlen River and was surrounded by a tall spiked palisade. After conversing with the gatekeeper the party learned that the two most popular establishments in town were The River Sprite, a moderately priced respectable Inn, and Skev’s BBQ Spider Shack, a dilapidated tavern with cheap, tasty eats. The party opted for the former.
The River Sprite was a bustle with local towns-folk come for the midday meal. The aroma of fried and fermented fish, mashed tubers and fermented cabbage permeated the dinning room. The party ordered meals and took a seat at a table next to two burly men garbed in studded leather and immediately began to eavesdrop on their conversation.
“…makes 3 just this past week.” The younger bearded man was saying to the older balding one. “Whose turn is it to tell the widow?”
“That’ed by yours I reckon,” replied the bald one. “Markus was near’r’ta your kin den mine. Sides, I had to tell Verra bout Jorek not more’n five or six moons past.”
The bearded one nodded silently. A few moments later he continued, “Well then, who d’ya reckon we ask to take Markus’s place in the caravan?”
A chirpy bar maid appeared just then with the party’s food, interrupting their snooping. The food was more than edible but the volume of the dinning room had risen loud enough so as to prevent the party from further listening in on the conversations occurring at the neighboring table.
After lunch Thurgel plucked a tune on his lute and in short order had the entire dinning room singing along to a familiar little ditty. Meanwhile Winter took the opportunity to sharpen and oil her longsword, hoping to catch the eye of the two men at the adjacent table. It worked. After Thurgel had finished playing a few tunes the two men came and sat at their table, the bearded one tossing a few coppers Thurgel’s way.
The bearded one introduced himself as Tam Therek, and the bald one simply as Scabs. Both of the men were on the town watch. It seemed the two had a proposition for the party. As Tam explained, each week the town sent out a couple of wagons of supplies to Thwil Tower in exchange for certain enchanted items. During the last few months however the caravan had been attacked on a number of occasions by a homicidal Elf ranger by the name of Krevin Hawkeye (Hex 1207). The Hawkeye was a crack shot at the longbow and over the past several months had managed to shoot down several of the members of the watch guarding the caravan. He didn’t seem too interested in the caravan’s cargo; he was content to hunt its passengers. Hawkeye had done the same to several of the town’s loggers felling trees in Felknor Wood. In fact Baron Kalgor had placed a 100 sp bounty on Hawkeye’s head, dead or alive.
If the party was interested, the Watch could use their particular skills-sets in guarding the caravan. The pay would be 1 sp per day (a fairly standard rate for mercenaries). Should the party manage to kill Hawkeye, they would be free to collect the reward, along with any of Hawkeye’s own personal effects.
Since the party was bound for Thwil Tower anyway, they took the job. The caravan departed at dawn of the next morning. The air was crisp and mist hung heavy in the air. They followed the river northeast, Tam and Scabs flanking the first wagon and Winter and Thurgal the second. Rispah sat in the wagon along with a hairy foul-smelling driver. Tam insisted on silence for the first leg of the journey, hoping to elude the notice of Hawkeye.
Two hours into the journey they reached the forests edge. The mist had cleared somewhat, and Tam blew out a sigh of relief.
“Well, it appears the gods have shown us favor,” he said, “looks like we’ve – Aggh!” His last sentence was cut short as an arrow plunged deep into his chest. Another just skimmed past Winter. Tam’s eyes rolled up into his skull as his body slumped to the ground.
“We’re under attack!” Shouted Thurgel.
Winter scanned the trees seeing nothing. Scabs drew his sword and ran forward. Thurgal reached for his crossbow and Rispah dived behind the horses.
“Can anyone see him?” Shouted Winter. Before anyone could reply two more arrows shot past barely missing Winter and Scabs. She saw him then, his tall slender form partially hidden behind a tree. He had skin the color of snow, and chiseled severe features. His cruel pale grey eyes held her gaze for a moment and then he was gone.
“There, there he is!” shouted Winter, and she and Scabs began running for the tree line. When they finally caught up to him, Hawkeye was wielding a pair of fine Elven thin blades. As the two hacked at him he danced and parried with a skill which neither of them could equal. He landed a deep gash in Winter’s side, taking her out of the battle.
With much shorter legs it took Thurgal several moments to catch up with the rest and join the fray. However the Dwarf was able to land a grazing blow upon the Elf. Rispah was the last to arrive, providing some much needed healing to Winter.
Seeing that the odds were against him Hawkeye turned and fled, but not before promising the party that this wasn’t the last they’d see of him.
The party dare not give chase in an unfamiliar forest where the Ranger would have all of the combat advantages and instead went back to see to their fallen companion. Tam was still breathing, but only faintly. They put him in the back of one of the wagons where Rispah tended his wounds and continued on their way.
The rest of the journey was uneventful, and a couple of hours later they had reached a tall grey spire at the base of a series of large hills. The gate of the tower was composed of carved oak and bass relief images of giant sea serpents and other terrifying creatures of the deep welcomed the party. Thurgal was just about to grip one of the gate’s two iron knockers, a sea serpent swallowing its own tail, when it sprung to life. The creature sprouted wings and its flesh turned to crimson scales.
“Who be you, and what be your business with Thwil?” asked the tiny creature in a high pitched metallic voice.
While the party was momentarily dumbfounded Scabs stepped forward. “Better let me handle this,” he said in his usual gruff manner. “It’s us Idri, Tam’s in’a back of one of den wagon’s nursen an arrow wound. Wanna let us in so’as we can unload dis stuff?”
The miniature dragon-like creature flew to the back of the wagon, peaked in, and then flew into an arrow-slit above the gate. Moments later the gates began to creek open and a dozen or so miniature clockwork creatures marched forward, banging into one another and began unloading the wagons. “Dem’s Thwil’s pets,” explained Scabs.
The party helped guide the seemingly clueless clockwork creatures, ensuring that none of the crates were damaged through carelessness. The inside of the tower was fairly spartan in appearance. A single spiral staircase wound up to another level, with a few torches set in sconces for light. Otherwise the chamber appeared to be empty.
“Where’s Thwil?” Asked Rispah.
“Oh he’s up der chip’n away at some mysterious project or’nother.” Replied Scabs.
“Well, I guess we should introduce ourselves,” said Thurgel a little uncertainly.
“Yup. You go ahead, I’m a’go’in ta see to Tam,” replied the bald one.
The three adventurers climbed the stairs which led to a laboratory filled with all manner of glass tubes and cylinders, gears and cogs. Various different colored solutions boiled away in pitchers releasing a rainbow haze that filled the chamber. A short man bent over by a large hump in his back was busily filling a tube with some form of solution, his back to the party.
“Hurm Hurmph,” Thurgel cleared his throat.
The humpback turned to see what the fuss was about. His face was caked in grey dust and he wore large glass goggles with leather straps that made him appear more like a giant insect than a man.
“Oh I say,” replied the hunchback, pulling back his goggles to reveal pink flesh, “visitors!” With that the man ushered the three into the room.
“Oh do come in, you’re just in time to witness something really quite extraordinary,” he said in a hushed conspiratorial tone, “how very exciting indeed!”
The hunchback grabbed Rispah’s hand and drew her into the room, and gestured for the rest of the party to follow suit. As the party drew near to a particular workbench they saw a distressed looking chicken with all manner of wires and tubes attaching it to a mechanical clockwork object that faintly resembled a chicken.
“Be prepared for something truly remarkable!” Said the little old man. The hunchback began to fiddle around with some runic dust and scribed a rune to enact some sort of a ritual with unfamiliar cantations. All the while the clucking of the chicken grew ever more desperate. As the final words were uttered the chicken vanished in a puff of purple smoke. The little man rubbed his hands together gleefully and waited with anticipation for the smoke to clear. When it finally did so it was clear that the chicken had vanished, but this seemed the only notable outcome of the ritual.
“No!” Said the little man, “No, no, no! I don’t understand, it was supposed to work, it has to work!”
“What exactly were you expecting to happen?” asked Winter.
“Why, essence transference of course my dear!” replied the little man. “It’s a spell I’ve been working on for a very long time. The essence of the chicken was supposed to be transferred to the automaton you see there. Why any old fool can create a gollum, given sufficient time and resources, but to transfer the soul of a living creature into a machine to animate and vitalize it, now that would truly be something!”
“Well it looks like it wasn’t a complete failure,” said Thurgel, pouting to something under the table. Peering down to look revealed a poor tormented looking creature part rat, part chicken that was busy pecking at its own tail.
“Huh,” said the Hunchback, scratching a stubbled chin, “must have got the focal element wrong. Ah well, there’s always tomorrow.”
The hunchback introduced himself to the party as Thwil and was delighted to learn that Rispah was a fellow practitioner of the arcane arts. They conversed with the old hunched man for a time and learned that the lights that had been seen at night outside his tower were in fact the magical byproducts of the transference experiments that the hunchback was conducting within his tower.
Rispah and Thurgel were particularly keen to learn of the old sea witch’s other arcane interests and see if he might be willing to teach them a spell or two. Thwil explained that he would be happy to do so provided that the party was willing to undertake a short quest for him. He was in need of some more spell components and spoke of an enchanted pool somewhere in Ovrass Forest (Hex 1406) which allowed those peering into it to see into the future. The pool derived its magical properties from a cluster of magical mushrooms known as Bonnytops. If the party was willing to fetch him a dozen or so of these mushrooms Thwil would teach them some of his own spells.
The party considered this, but decided that they had better retrieve their sickened comrade from The Grey Pheasant before setting off on a new quest. Thwil saw to Tam’s wounds and indicated that the party could stay in an old guest cottage not far away. In the morning the party traveled with the caravan back to Swiftriver, and thence made for the city of Thild. They pushed hard and traveled into the night, but made it to the city unscathed by any unsavory creatures of the wild.
Referee’s Notes – this was the second and final session of the Thild Wilderness adventure that my wife and I were able to play face to face with our Kiwi friends in New Zealand. In an odd twist of fate we are now back in the U.S. However there has been talk of continuing our adventures via some online format. So hopefully this will not be the end.