Welcome to the Flaming Faggot

Callovia is called "the boundless empire" yet you have managed to find its northern border - a notorious roadhouse deep within the Madrasan Marches on the edge of the wilds of Llanvirnesse. The sign above the door reads "Flaming Faggot," which would suggest a cozy, homey inn with fresh biscuits served at teatime if not for the severed troll heads mounted on pikes at the gate.

As you cross the threshold the raucous din quiets momentarily as all eyes dart to the door and calloused hands drop instinctively to well-worn sword hilts. The threat, instantly assessed, is dismissed and roadhouse patrons go about their business hardly missing a beat.

Grim, hard-eyed men huddle around tables in close conversation thick with conspiracy; caravan guards gamble away their earnings; Caemric rangers sit close to the fireplace cooking the damp of the Black Annis from their clothes as they warm their innards with Red Dragon Ale; minstrels play and buxom wenches dance for the pleasure of men who pay them little attention - until they need a companion to warm their bed.

As you approach the bar, a huge, bald barman with a greatsword slung across his back slides a mug of freshly-pulled ale towards you, its frothy head dripping over the rim.

"Pull up a seat, lad," he says, "and let me tell you a tale of high adventure."

Monday, January 11, 2016

Tower of Mazzarin Part 2: The Crystal Cavern

The second session of our new Tunnels & Trolls campaign picked up where the last session left off: with the characters resting in the de-goblinized ruined tower of the fabled wizard, Mazzarin the Magician.

Arya and Zelda opened the door concealed behind the tapestry in Mazzarin's arcane laboratory, and entered into a huge cavern.  Its calcite walls glittered in the torchlight revealing a veritable forest of stalagmites growing from the cavern floor.  In the center of the cavern a huge stalactite hung from the ceiling, dripping water into a large pool that lay beneath it.  The bottom of the pool was strewn with gold coins - hundreds, maybe even thousands of them.

Eyes alight with the glow of unbridled avarice, Arya reached in and grabbed a big handful of coins.  As soon as she did so, the water began to churn and darken, and a nymph appeared in the pool, wroth to see the two mortals stealing gold from her pool.



She declared that they would meet the last fool who dared to take her coins, then she disappeared and the corpse of a drowned man dragged itself out of the pool and shambled towards them, its dead eyes staring blankly, its cold, wet fingers reaching for Arya's throat.  The corpse was little match for the two doughty adventurers and they quickly put it to rest.

The water in the pool cleared and became still and, reassured that the threat was dealt with, Zelda also grabbed a handful of coins.  The water roiled again, and this time two drowned corpses emerged from its depths.  While one dead thing was an easy fight, two was more than they could handle, and they might have perished had Zelda not cast Oh-Go-Away on one of the corpses, allowing her and Arya to divide and conquer. Tired and hurt, they wisely resolved to leave the pool alone and not provoke the Nymph's wrath any further.

On the far side of the cavern were two passages that led off in different directions.  Choosing the passage on the left, the pair followed it only a short way before it led to a large oval wooden frame, intricately carved with vines and leaves, whose center was filled with a swirling opaque mist.



One must always be suspicious of mist-filled portals, so Arya and Zelda experimented by throwing things through the portal, tying one end of a rope to an item, tossing it through and reeling it back, before Arya finally, timidly, stuck her hand into the mist.  Since her hand survived intact, she and Zelda threw caution to the wind and stepped through.

They passed through the mists and into an ethereal woodland glade.  They explored for just a few minutes before hearing the sound of something large crashing through the bushes, coming toward them.  They hid behind a tree and waited, then saw a leprechaun run past, pursued by an ogre with a butterfly net.  After the two had passed by, Arya and Zelda decided to travel in the direction from which the leprechaun and ogre had come.  They soon came upon what they supposed was the ogre's ramshackle lair.  Among the ogrish detritus, the hut was filled with wooden cages, one of which was occupied by a captured fairy.

The rescued fairy introduced herself as Flinx, and invited Zelda and Arya to return with her to the Faerie Court so that King Oberon and Queen Titania might pay their respects.  They agreed and traveled with Flinx who presented them to the Faerie Court.  Oberon and Titania welcomed the mortals graciously, and explained that the ogre, Galoot, had been making a pest of himself of late, abducting their subjects for his fairy collection.  They offered Arya and Zelda a bounty of gold and gifts if they would get rid of Galoot for them.

Arya and Zelda returned to Galoot's home, and found that he was still away.  They rigged a noose trap by the entrance to his hovel, hid behind a tree, and waited for him to return.  When Galoot finally returned and stepped into the rope noose, Arya and Zelda heaved on the rope, which they'd slung over nearby tree branch, but despite their combined efforts they were unable to even budge the mighty ogre.  What they had hoped would be an easy capture turned into a bloody brawl that ended with Arya decapitating Galoot with a mighty swing of her voulge.

When they returned to the Faerie Court, Oberon and Titania recoiled at the sight of the bloody head and explained that when they said 'get rid of' Galoot, they meant drive him off, not kill him.  Oh well.
Arya and Zelda were rewarded with gifts of gold and elven rope that could move on its own and even tie and untie itself to objects on command.  Afterwards there was a great feast, and the two humans ate, drank, and danced late into the night before finally going to the portal in the glade, and returning to the mortal realm.

Exiting the portal, they went back to the crystal cavern and proceeded down the passage to the right, which they had not yet explored.  Some yards down the passage the way was blocked by a huge jade statue that opened its eyes and spoke:

"Answer me these riddles three if you would pass me by; but take heed for if you fail you shall surely die."

The statue then asked its first riddle: Poor people have it.  Rich people need it.  If you eat it you will die.  What is it?
This riddle stumped Arya and Zelda for a long, long time, and they were beginning to despair of ever finding the solution when they finally guessed 'nothing,' which was the correct answer.

The statue asked its second riddle: The man who made it doesn't want it.  The man who bought it doesn't need it.  The man who needs it doesn't know it.  What is it?
They thought for a while on this until Zelda blurted out 'a coffin,' which of course was correct.

The statue asked its third riddle: What must be broken before it can be used?
The statue had scarcely finished the question when Arya answered 'an egg,' which she had eaten for breakfast that morning and came readily to mind.

As soon as they answered the third riddle the statue moved aside and let them pass.  The passage led to a small chamber that contained only an amazingly detailed statue of an old man in robes.  Zelda guessed that this might actually be the long-departed Mazzarin, and she cast the Pygmalion spell from the scroll she found in the Wizard's study, which will restore petrified people to life.  Sure enough the statue transformed into an old man.

This was, indeed, Mazzarin the Magician, who had been betrayed by his beautiful young apprentice, Druantia.  Ensnared by her beauty he let his defenses down, and she was able to enslave him with a ring of Yassa Massa, forcing him to teach her everything he knew.  Once Druantia learned everything she could from the old master she turned him to stone and abandoned him in the cave, presumably for all eternity.  That was two centuries ago, and Mazzarin was incensed to learn that his tower had crumbled and had been infested with goblins.  He was grateful to Zelda for freeing him of his enchantment, and though he had nothing of value with which to reward her, he promised to mentor her in the arcane arts, to teach her his secrets in hope of making up for having trained the evil sorceress, Druantia.

The session ended with Arya and Zelda returning to the village of Caer Darrig, shocked to find that several years had passed while they feasted in the faerie realm, and that they had been declared dead in their absence, and their homes and property auctioned off...


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