Sunday, September 6, 2015

"M" is for "Myrdagyn's Mystic"

Myrdagyn is the hero who is gathering a company of would-be adventurers. He is now getting rather on in years, and bothered by an old injury to one shoulder that cramps up every now and then -- like this time (he tests CON each game, and a failed test brings on difficulties with the old war wound). If it cuts in his combat value takes a cut. Not a big one, but every negative element increases the danger for adventurers!

(By the way, Myrdagyn bills himself as "the greatest swordsman who ever lived" - yes, we cribbed a character from an old movie, so what.)

To outline the story I will backtrack briefly to the first game, which we enjoyed in July:

It was in a town "with no name" -- just one of many typical middling-sized places with inadequately maintained fortifications (the pertinent parts are seen below, the town walls are off-table).


The raiding scum from the "Masterless Quarter" (MQ) had sent a few of their own to live in said-town for a few weeks before the planned raid. These unworthies, no longer taken notice of by the townsfolk, at the appointed time, overpowered the sleepy guards and opened the gates. Thus admitted, the raiders, led by a couple of "Thugs" (large oafs, very strong and tough but also not ever all that smart -- their physical advantages are offset by their dependence on various narcotics and liquors, etc.), entered the streets and started killing or hauling off everyone that they could see. Most of the startled townsfolk ran. Of the few who opted to hide or resist, most were women (as the dice dictated). One in particular had her house overlooking the town square. It had a second storey balcony. The raiders arrived at the town square and were met by the first genuine defenders. These worthies were a mixture of resident militiamen and visiting adventurers staying at the local hostel and tavern. The town constable (Sheryvh by name) was usually found at the latter place of business, being its most "loyal" customer. It was at the brothel in the back where the constable, sleeping off a drunk, first heard news of the raid on his jurisdiction. Fortunately for him, his mind was relatively clear after a sound sleep and he leaped into tardy action. Several others (Myrdagyn and Company)  issued from the tavern and made for the main street leading to the town square. There, combat was generally joined.

The outcome was swiftly concluded by that point. The raiders were repulsed and withdrew with their loot and captives. One Thug leader acquired a sobriquet as a result of his encounter with the mistress of the balconied house. He had tried to break in her door, and she had successfully dropped a very large washtub on his bare head, knocking him stone cold.


He lay there on the cobbles for a long spell, then staggered to his feet and roared into combat. Only to dimly realize that his troops were in general rout. He extricated himself and joined the flight from the town. His men called him "Tubby" after that. He took it as a compliment, since he had always been proud of his stout physique, and the joke at his expense was lost on him. So everyone was satisfied with the new nickname of Antania's sub-commander. (Oh, yes: Antania is the fell sorceress who rules in the Masterless Quarter.)

After the withdrawal from the town, Tubby recruited and reorganized his band and set about more raiding. This time turning their attention to the open countryside, further denuding it of inhabitants and livestock, etc.

The adventurers who had been gathering (before the raid) in the "nameless town" had lost their wizard in the act of helping defeat the MQ raiders. The hapless magic user had touted his abilities to his potential employer, Myrdagyn. Seeking adequate participants in his quest (the nature of which he hides, for the nonce, from those who join him, only promising them action and fortune and fame), Myrdagyn had taken on the wizard, only to lose him in their first battle. What had happened is, an attempt to cast a fireball at "Tubby" resulted in the spontaneous combustion of the caster himself. (Thus underscoring the ages-old maxim of all magic users: "Never cast magic needlessly.")

Deprived of his wizard, Myrdagyn decided to seek the aid of one "Xoniuqé", an old companion of his late father who had shared contracts together. In fact, in Myrdagyn's possession was such a "contract" in the retired illusionist's own hand: to wit: that if either Myrdagyn Sr or Xoniuqé had need of the other, he would come hastily to his aid. Warned from his dead sire's tales that Xoniuqé was of a somewhat lofty and choleric temperament (though utterly loyal and reliable when finally committed to a friendship), and had been retired from adventuring for many years, Myrdagyn was reluctant to chance the encounter with the formidable comrade of his father's adventures.

Now, seeing no other practical option but to try and convince Xoniuqé to join him in his "real" quest (still a secret known only to Myrdagyn himself and the regent of the Kylburian Empire, who had given "the greatest swordsman who ever lived" his commission), Myrdagyn took his comrades and followers away in search of Xoniuqé's abode. This was somewhere at no great distance in the rolling countryside of the Kylburian Themes.

The members of the party included one Ahnxst the Drulath ("Dwarf" in the vernacular), nephew of a rather famous Drulathim hero of Xoniuqé's generation named Lorinkh (whose whereabouts are unknown, else Myrdagyn would have tried to recruit him instead: instead he got the rather youthful Ahnxst), who came accompanied by four companions-in-arms from The Vale of the Drulath, each one of them eager to live up to the Drulathim reputation established by the legendary Lorinkh. Jexebel, a former prostitute who has found religion and applied for admittance into the Military Order of the Knights of Mytros. But, being a female and of dubious repute, despite her repentance and forgiveness (sore and lengthy and genuine), she must fight alone for a season, proving herself worthy to join the mixed gender ranks of the Knights. The constable, Sheryvh, who has suddenly fancied himself an "adventurer" after his heroic defense of his town. He leaves his constabulary in the more capable hands of a deputy and joins Myrdagyn with half a dozen lightly armed spearmen. Before quitting "the town that shall not be named", two more fighters join Myrdagyn's company: apparently a father and son duo (by appearances, but it could be an older and younger brother, the two of them are reticent about their backgrounds) whose current lust for vengeance upon the MQ scum seems unequaled. The "father" favors a two-handed broad ax, the "son" sword and shield.

With the foot troops and pack animals in tow, the mounted heroes go into the countryside, seeking the whereabouts of "Myrdagyn's mystic". The leader seems somewhat uncertain about where exactly this mysterious person lives. But after a few days of asking questions of local farmers and villagers, Myrdagyn is confident that he has located Xoniuqé. The illusionist was for a period of time "physician to the imperial court", serving the former emperor, Emperor Teleios' father. (By the way, Teleios has been gone for several years, on crusade to assault the dominions of the "undying witch", the Empress Xaviera, thousands of miles to the south, leaving his brother as regent.) A certain fortified village not far off has an overlord who bought the entire place, including every man, woman, child, domestic animal and rat, many years ago. He is known as "physician to the court, retired", and few people actually know his name. His village is commonly known as "the village of that physician of the court, retired", if it is mentioned at all. Though not far away, it is remote, as appertaining to frequented highways, being back in the hills and woodlands.

 

Rather late on an afternoon, Myrdagyn and Company neared the fortified village, touted as the residence of the reclusive retired physician to the imperial court. The path wended its way between hills, steep places, clumps of dense woods and ruins, both old and more recent.

Suddenly on the right flank of the small column of travelers, a moderate sized company of brigands from the MQ emerged from the trees. A few arrows flashed and one of Sheryvh's spearmen took a hit and went down. Ahnxst shot a bolt from his crossbow which lodged in a brigand shield. Myrdagyn gave rapid orders to his company: "I am going to ride swiftly to the village and announce our presence. You cover my rear and come along as swiftly as you may. Hopefully we can gain asylum there before anymore of these villains appear."

Even as the words left his mouth, another band of raiders, equal in number to the first, appeared over the hilltop to the right of the band already shooting at them. "That's it then!" Myrdagyn said and spurred his horse. The father and son duo made a quick decision and followed their leader, covering his rear, as he had ordered, in their own fashion.

Meanwhile, taking command of the situation, Ahnxst said that they all ought to make for the substantial ruins just ahead off to the left side of the pathway. Nobody disagreed. Just barely outdistancing their pursuers, the party entered the ruins and proceeded to move to the defense of doorway and empty windows and broken walls. The ruin was roofless and crumbling and appeared to be exceedingly old, perhaps even dating to the ancient empire of the wizards' war over a thousand years ago (before the Kylburians ever came into the north and repopulated the land).

The brigands from the MQ swarmed the place and started to fight to gain entry, trading weapon strokes across the lower level where a crumbled wall stood just over the height of a man, and boosting each other into the holes of former windows. The defense was stoutly maintained and quite a number of the raiders littered the ground below the walls before they drew off in frustration. Their few archers traded missiles with Sheryvh's  spearmen, who threw stones, which they pried loose or picked up from the stone ruin.

Suddenly, Tubby appeared at the head of a formidable band of half a score Thugs, all pumped up and roaring for action. The lesser, "more mortal", brigands stood aside and let Tubby and his toughs attack the building from the front. Tubby crossed flail and ax with Ahnxst, who stood to block the doorway. Jexebel and Sheryvh and a couple of Drulathim had been holding the lower, exposed level, quite successfully against the brigands. But the Thugs were made of more formidable material and two of Ahnxst's companions were felled there. The brigands resumed their assault on the window apertures, succeeding in getting inside several times, slaying spearmen and being slain in turn. It was a cramped chaos of flashing weapons and sundered and pierced flesh!

Tubby knocked Ahnxst down at the foot of the stone staircase leading to the upper storey. But the young Drulath ignored his wounds and dealt the Thug leader a serious hurt in return. Tubby backed out and sent in his men to deal with the "stunty". Ahnxst called to everyone on the outer level to retreat upstairs. Once Jexebel, Sheryvh and the last Drulath standing had made it to the upper storey, Ahnxst withdrew to the top of the stairs and defied the Thugs from there. Sheryvh spelled him at one point and was himself wounded and knocked to the ground. Recovering, he regained the upper storey and the two of them covered the staircase together.

The assault went on very stiff and sore, until all the spearmen were down and the last of the heroes were grouped in the end of the room by the stairs. Raiders and a couple of Thugs had gained the upper storey through the window apertures, and the pack animals and horses had been stolen from the ground floor and taken outside.

 
By then, none of the heroes were unscathed.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, more of Tubby's force had arrived in the neighborhood of the village. First a renegade band of half a dozen knights (in rebellion against the regent) had ridden onto the fields outside the village gates. They saw Myrdagyn and his two men dismounted in front of the closed doors, waiting. Myrdagyn had passed his "bona fides" through the window to the watchman, who had taken word to the lord and master of the village, up in the great hall on the hillock. Before this waiting was resolved, one way or the other, the renegade knights attacked the outnumbered men. But they more than met their match. Myrdagyn swiftly dispatched one of them. The father and son duo cut down three more just as quickly and unhorsed a fourth. The son moved without delay and finished him off as he lay stunned in the road. The remaining two knights fled. Right after that, the doors were opened and the three adventurers were admitted inside the walls. Myrdagyn went up to talk with "the chief", as he was called by his people.

While Myrdagyn conversed with "the chief", he learned that this was indeed Xoniuqé, the retired illusionist. Though annoyed and "put out" by the intrusion and sudden demand on his loyalty, the reclusive magic user agreed to think about how obligated he might be to the son of a sworn comrade, though now dead.

Suddenly, alarms came from bell and upraised voices below. A strong band of Urtukim (think "orcs" of the far distant future) had issued from the woods and were ascending the earth embankment, threatening to come over the palisade! A few defenders rushed to resist the attack but they couldn't keep all the Urtukim from gaining the parapet. The father and son duo raced each other there and arrived just in time to stem the tide.

 
Myrdagyn and Xoniuqé ran from the great hall, and the illusionist took in the situation at once. Calling to his dog handler, the three of them ran behind a trio of great black canines and headed for the threatened wall. But the leader of the Urtukim, one "Glushslug", who had been stoutly forced by the father's ax from the palisade, and into the ditch at the base of the embankment, saw that surprise was lost and called his men away.
 
The "chief" and his handler and their war dogs joined Myrdagyn and the father and son duo in pursuit for aways, until it was obvious that the Urtukim were not coming back. The illusionist breathed a sigh of relief, silently grateful that the spell he had been ready to loose had not been required. His anonymity, even his disguise, were still preserved from all but Myrdagyn.
 
The final state of affairs in the ruined building changed abruptly with the timely arrival of a company of Knights of Mytros and militia pike and bow from a neighboring town. These had already been on the track of the raiders and finally caught them up. Tubby led a swift retreat of his remaining forces into the woods. And Myrdagyn's badly mauled band were helped into "the mystic's" abode.
 
As Myrdagyn's companions all know why he has led them there, it is soon rumored, via loose lips, that "the chief" is actually some kind of wizard. That first night, there is much gossip and guessing amongst the villagers about what the arrival of these visitors all means....