Monday, 22 June 2020

Sleepless Night

Session 9 of our Swords & Wizardry campaign was a little different. I mashed up two short adventures written for Swords & Wizardry by Creation's Edge GamesThe Restless Knight and Night of the Stirges. Both are short adventures that take place in an Inn. I mixed them together, made a few changes, and I used the Shady Dragon Inn from the old A-series module for D&D.

We also had a new player joining and this proved to be a good adventure for allowing this. I players had already stayed at this Inn once before in the previous session so their guard was down a little.

Session 9

The adventurers arrive at the roadside inn, the Restless Knight, the mule pulling a cart laden with the corpses of dead kobolds they need to collect a reward. The stable boy Ostin runs to get Tevan the Innkeeper. The Innkeeper is disturbed by the cart and tells them to unhitch it behind the stables.

They enter the Inn and speak with Tevan the Innkeeper to get a room for the night. Everyone is anxious to get a good night’s sleep in a clean bed. While they are enjoying their meal they witness a young traveler dirty from the road come in. He speaks with the waitress and asks for water. The young man looks underfed and has some scars on his face. Lakima tries to buy the man an ale but the man declines, happy to drink his water. The man then leaves the Inn and takes a perch on a barrel outside the tavern doors. Apparently too poor to afford a roof over his head.

Lakima watches the room, he sees the staff, he sees crazy old Hoffeg who was here the last time they passed by, and he sees a man who is eating dinner who looks like a caravan guard. He approaches the man and engages him in conversation. The man is a caravan guard returning to Edgerton to get another contract. Lakima asks if he is for hire and the man negotiates a price of 8 gold per day to guard them. The man introduces himself as Marcus Grest and the two shake on the deal.

They see a few more strange occurrences, a robed man enters and confronts Tevan out of earshot. The two have an argument. It ends when Tevan says something and then the robed man says, "at least give me a room for the night". Tevan hands over a key. They also witness Tevan arguing with a Halfling merchant later in the night. His curiosity aroused, Lakima comes over and questions Tevan about the arguments. Tevan tells him it is nothing, the halfling is just a Guild merchant determined to sell him lamp oil, He prefers to stay with his current source.

Lakima and Daen head upstairs to sleep. Marta and Eathwund stay down in the tavern drinking ale.

Well after nightfall, the thief Billy who is dousing on tops of an empty wine barrel, sees a man stagger out of the darkness headed for the inn. Billy does nothing but watches as the man staggers to the doors, throws them open, and steps into the tavern. Inside the tavern, Eathwund and Marta see the man take two faltering steps and then collapse face first. Tevan shrieks and runs into the kitchen. His wife Lotti runs out of the kitchen to see what is happening. Marta and Lotti rush to the man’s side. Lotti begins praying and casting Cure Light Wounds. Marta checks for vitals and tells Lotti it is too late for that. She casts it anyway but the man is dead. There are a half dozen stab wounds in his back. But the wounds are odd. They were done by a conical shaped weapon. Eathwund rolls the body over to search it. As soon as the face is visible, the barmaid Rosalee shrieks and runs into the back rooms. Eathwund searches the body, finding standard travel gear, some weapons, a few coins, and two wanted posters. Wanted alive for 500 gold. One poster looks a lot like Ostin the stable boy.

Marta heads upstairs to get Lakima and Daen. Eathwund helps Tripp (the cook) carry the body out through the kitchen door. They lay the body out in the grass to bury in the morning. By the time Eathwund makes it back to the tavern everyone is assembled except the halfling they saw earlier. Kendra has replaced Rosalee. Lakima asks the barmaid Kendra about Ostin and she says he arrived a few months ago, about a week after Rosalee arrived. Kendra confides to the group that she thinks Ostin and Rosalee knew each other before meeting at the Inn.

Meanwhile, outside Billy snaps awake as his arm grows heavy. He looks down and sees a bloated stirge resting on his arm, its proboscis impaled is his arm and sucking blood. Quietly, he gets up and slams the arm against a post on the side of the building dislodging the creature. But then he sees several more stirges headed toward him out of the darkness. Billy runs into the Inn and lets everyone know that there is a swarm of stirges outside. Daen peers out the Inn windows but reports he cannot see anything. The group leaves the Inn cautiously. Out of the darkness a swarm of stirges attack. Several of the adventurers are hit and some are drained of some blood. Just as they are finishing off the stirges a second-wave arrives. They beat off the second wave and see an even larger swarm of stirges headed their way. They decide they cannot fight off all of the stirges and run back into the Tavern.

Billy is attacked by Stirges

Trapped in the tavern they can hear the thump of stirges against the windows. Daen suggests building a dwarven siege cover out of two tables and making a run for the stables to get out of the area. But then Marcus questions how they will protect the horses? Danigal the mage (the man who argued with Tevan earlier in the night) says that he read that stirges hate sunlight.Lakima suggests putting torches at all of the windows and doors. Tevan is horrified, his Inn is made of wood after all. He proposes using tables and benches to barricade the doors and windows. Lakima becomes suspicious of Tevan and casts Charm Person on him. But it turns out he is telling the truth. Danigal immediately accuses Lakima of casting the spell. He is revealed to be a wizard and they notice now that he only has one hand. They agree to board up the windows and get to work. Lotti becomes very worried about her daughters who are upstairs. She asks for help getting to them. Lakima gets a bag of blood from the cook and tosses it out the front door to distract the stirges while Daen and Lotti run outside and upstairs to the owner's room. Daen tells Lotti to stay in the room until sunrise and barricade the doors. Then Daen runs back downstairs. He is attacked by Stirges but kills one and makes it inside to apparent safety.

The group and the tavern staff and guests decide to make themselves comfortable in the Tavern for the night. After an hour they hear alarming whinnies from the direction of the stables. Tevan shouts, “They are after the horses!”

The adventurers decide they have to head out to check on the horses. Hoffeg, Billy, and their new friend Marcus agree to join them. They head over to the stable killing a few stirges on the way. Inside they find Ostin using a pitchfork to fight off eight stirges. An all-out battle occurs in the stables. Several heroes are hit and drained of some blood. Old man Hoffeg is killed. Once the battle ends, Lakima questions Ostin, while Billy discreetly searches the old man’s body. He comes away with a piece of rope the man used to hold up his pants.

Ostin admits he is the man in the wanted poster, and the woman is Rosalee. They are on the run from Roslee’s elven father. The man must have hired a bounty hunter to find them. He tells them that the horses woke him. The stable door was open and stirges were in the stable so he tried to fight them off.

The heroes decide it is too dangerous to head back to the Tavern so they should stay in the stable. Marcus argues for returning to the stable and Danigal agrees with him. But the heroes tell them they are staying here. Marcus relents, apparently unwilling to try to make it on his own. They set watches. Marcus offers to take the first watch. He says he cannot sleep anyway. Eathwund tells him he will stay up. He wants to keep an eye on Marcus.

In the small bed-chamber attached to the stable, Ostin falls asleep. Billy, who is sleeping in the room, takes his rope and tries to tie up Ostin quietly. But he wakes the man up immediately. Ostin asks, “What do you think you are doing?”
“Just making sure you are comfortable”, Billy replies.
“Just go to sleep!”

Things are quiet at first then Marcus indicates he can hear something. He motions Eathwund to be quiet. Eathwund tries to hear at the door but cannot hear anything. Marcus says he heard a woman scream and then a lot of shouting. He tells Eathwund that he is going to the tavern. Eathwund sighs and wakes everyone. It is decided that everyone, including Ostin will head to the tavern. They make a dash for it and make it before the stirges can attack. In the tavern, they find Lotti and her twin daughters.

Daen is exasperated that Lotti disobeyed his instructions. But Lotti says three stirges got into the room upstairs through the window. She grabbed her kids and ran for it. She had been unable to completely block the window. Marcus says, ”I knew I heard a scream” And then he says he is going to check the doors in the back.

Eathwund says that is a good idea and he goes to check the door and windows in the main tavern. Lakima confronts Rosalee about the wanted posters. She confirms the story that Ostin told them. Lakima tells her that she had better leave the area tomorrow because when he gets to Edgerton he will tell the watch commander about her.

They start to settle down, everyone is present except for the halfling who is presumably upstairs, and Marcus who went to check on doors is present in the tavern. Tripp comes into the tavern from the kitchen, screaming about stirges. Three of the creatures come in after him. Soon they are followed by more stirges.

Lakima, yells at the cook for letting the stirges in through the kitchen. But Tripp says they came from the back hallway. Just then Marcus enters from the kitchen pursued by six stirges. Then they realize that the stirges are not attacking him.
“That’s right,” Marcus says. “I let my friends in the back door.” “Now I can have my revenge, on you Tevan, and you Danigal and finally you Lotti.”

Tevan and Danigal shout together, “Kellis?”
“I was Kellis, but not anymore, you made sure of  that my old friend!” With that Marcus starts to transform. Bat wings sprout from his back, his head elongates into a long proboscis and his hands become claws.

A dozen stirges fly into the tavern. Lotti grabs her daughters and runs for the fireplace with Kendra. Rosalee and Ostin try to protect them. Tripp tries to round the bar but he is attacked and killed by stirges. Tevan and Danigal back away together toward one corner. It is soon clear that the stirges and the creature are concentrating on attacking Tevan and Danigal.  A few attack Danigal but he uses Mirror image to good effect.

Billy races out the Tavern doors and runs for the stables. He is attacked by a pair of stirges but kills them and makes it to the stables safely. In the Tavern there is desperate fighting. The creature grapples Danigal and begins drinking his blood. It ignores Daen, who leaps on it from behind stabbing it with his magic sword. Blood and ichor splatter all over the floor. The creature drops Danigal to the floor, the mage is clearly dead. He struggles to fly toward Tevan but Daen and Eathwund attack. Teven falls under a horde of stirges and dies. The creature cackles in delight and sends the remaining stirges off to attack Lotti and the children. Ostin leaps forward to defend them with his pitchfork. More stirges enter from the kitchen flying right past Lakima ignoring the mage.

Daen and Eathwund with help from Marta finally bring down the creature. After that, the stirges become confused and fly around without purpose. It does not take long for the adventurers to finish them off. Lotti is distraught and rushes to the side of Tevan who is dead. Kendra takes the children to her room and Rosalee helps Lotti upstairs. They lay out the bodies of the creature, who has reverted to the form of the man they saw before, Marcus/Kellis. They place Tevan, Tripp (cook), and Danigal’s bodies on tables. Lakima discreetly searches the body of Danigal but finds only a few coins.

Over in the stables, BIlly looks through all of the saddlebags trying to find something to steal. He finds a secret stash of gold and jewelry in a trunk in Ostin’s room and he takes it.

Back in the tavern, Ostin suggests that he will go over to the stables and get a few pitchforks to clear up the stirge bodies. Lakima suggests that a shovel would work better. So Ostin heads down into the cellar and comes up with a few shovels.

Everyone turns in for the night. Lakima notices that the door to one of the guest rooms is open. He investigates and finds the halfling dead in his bed. There are signs of a struggle and the window is broken. Under a bed he finds, Danigal’s possession. Not much money but there is a spellbook.

Daen, Marta, Lakima, and Eathwund lock themselves into their room. Eathwund takes the first watch. Once everyone else is asleep he hears footsteps on the platform outside the room. He wakes Daen for the second watch and tells him of the intruder. They listen together. It sounds like someone in platemail armor is pacing outside. They know that the only people with platemail at the Inn are here in this room. Daen says, "let's investigate". He is less than enthusiastic. They step outside letting Lakima and Marta sleep.

Out on the platform they see a ghost. The ghost is wearing platemail armor in the style of a Knight of St. John. The ghost seems non-threatening and it beckons them to follow it as it sinks through the floor into the tavern. Eathwund and Daen follow the ghost into the deserted Tavern. Only a few lanterns are lit. The corpses rest undisturbed but it is apparent that Ostin cleaned up the stirge bodies and disposed of them.

The ghost leads them into the kitchen and points at the trapdoor to the cellar. Then it descends through the floor. They open the trapdoor and climb down the ladder into the cellar. The ghost is waiting and pointing at a wall behind some old, rotten crates. The cellar is disused and stinks of mold. Daen and Eathwund get to work moving the crates and then tearing wood off the wall. They find a concealed door behind the wood. The ghost passes through the door. They open the door and find a natural stone chamber. There are a pair of bookshelves with only a few books on them, a chest, and in one corner they see a pentagram painted on the floor. A long-dead demon lies in the pentagram. In another corner is the dead body of the knight. Holding a sword and a shield. Then the body of the knight steps forward and moves to attack. They strike it several times. It lets out a blood-curdling shriek that seems to sap their energy. But they land several blows. As it is weakened the ghost reappears and grapples the corpse. There is a flash of light and the corpse turns to dust the weapons falling to the floor. The Ghost turns and salutes them and then disappears.

Eathwund and Daen face off against the Tsohg

Eathwund and Daen take the books, the sword, and shield and carry the chest upstairs to their rooms. They wake Marta for the third watch and fill him in on what happened. Marta listens calmly and then pushes his bed to barricade the door.

Very early in the morning, Billy sneaks into the inn and searches for something valuable. He robs the corpses of the cook and the innkeeper but finds the wizard has nothing. He searches the kitchen, the pantry, and then the back rooms. He can hear a woman in one room so he checks another. Finding the cook's room empty he searches it and steals some coins.

As morning breaks everyone assembles in the tavern. Kendra cooks a passable breakfast. Lotti angrily yells that her husband’s purse is empty. Daen knowingly looks at Billy and demands he return the money. Billy pleads his innocence. But Daen threatens to shake him upside down and Billy eventually relents, returning a portion of the money. Lotti seems to think everything was returned. Lakima asks Lotti what she plans to do now that her husband is dead. She says this inn was Tevan’s Dream so she will make a go of it. They offer to purchase the inn or become partners but Lotti says she needs to think about it now is not the time. Daen puts Billy to work digging graves outback with Ostin.

Lakima has a talk with Ostin and Rosalee suggesting they take the Halflings pony and leave the area. The two nod agreement. Rosalee apologizes to Lotti and goes back to pack her things. The rest say their goodbyes and saddle their ponies and horses. Billy accepts the offer of a ride in the cart all the way to Edgerton.

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