Dorak - Fawlty Towers
Well, the hobgoblin problem turned out to really be a bugbear problem.
That’s the not-so-dramatic moment where, as Falko would tell it, dramatic chords should be played and a mustachio’d villain should sneer.
This was only revealed to us after we trekked a circuitous route to their hideout, bypassing some traps as we went in, and staged a mid-day assault.
Since their hideout was 100 feet in the air up a sandstone beanstalk, complete with a top oozing smoke, and I am not a strong and capable climber, and Kumori was not there to climb up first, we had to consider the best approach.
Remembering that Coatl could fly, and that there was that smoke oozing out of the tip of the sandstone salami, I suggested he fly up, and cover the hole, and smoke out our prey.
That worked well, as the act of forcing them to flee left several of them poorly armored and even caused a few to take a nasty tumble.
Unfortunately, the one who did not tumble was very vicious and furious. It’s possible his co-hort gave him a better litheness with a spell, but it’s amazing how difficult he was to hit squarely. A bit of a thick hide, a bit of actual hide armor, a bit of dexterity… was he using a buckler at one point? I don’t know, but it was fairly difficult to hit him, even when he was raging and lunging and cleaving.
Worse, he had a weapon that meant he could step back and hit all three of us – since Coatl was in the air, and Kumori and Iz’Alma were absent – and we’d have to close and he’d stepped back. I don’t know if it was a deadly waltz or a ballet we were engaged in, though the ballet seems less likely given the participants, and I never did master the social niceties of dancing.
We fought him and his followers but a cohort, who seemed to be somewhat like Iz in an odd way, kept healing him and aiding him. I’ve read of these shamans and their abilities during my studies of all things humanoid, and there seems to be some oddities with the counts I’ve read – some places referred to them as ‘ghost guides’ and others suggested they could talk to an indifferent spirit as easily as an unfriendly one.
It wasn’t going that poorly for us – a few close calls, I was badly hurt, and Smriti had been as well, but so was the massive bruiser we faced – when his other bugbear and likely mate came down to attack us also. Though he was close to death, she had some of the same cunning and ability to place a shot precisely that I do.
I don’t recall exactly how it happened – was it a strike from the brute or the bitch? – but I did not see a bit of the fight, as I was too busy dead and close to losing a gift (and really all gifts).
Thankfully, Dusky saved me, with some help from Coatl. I don’t want to die, I don’t want to fail the Explorer’s society of my companions, who may need me for the ritual, but this unholy artifact could claim anyone, and given how often I am furthest away from everyone, I thought it best that I carry it.
I do plan to use that as a threat should we encounter any further trouble along the way. Here’s how I envision it:
‘Do you see my dagger? It is a cursed dagger from an ancient and cursed land that has been reworked by dark necromancers in the service of Asmodeus to destroy souls and steal gifts. When I kill you and it drinks of your soul, I will at least have the small comfort that I warned you before doing so.’
That tangent aside, it was about this time that the lamp decided to evict Kumori and Iz. I vaguely recall smoke from it before I fell unconscious, though being in and out of consciousness at the time, it is hard to keep track.
As befitting a noble man who knows he may be called to battle, Kumori was garbed and ready for the fight, and Iz was less ready and a lot less focused but at least garbed. I don’t know how we’d react if the lamp summoned her from a bath.
Still, Kumori (from all accounts) launched into battle and faced the brute headfirst. I may have been awake but I was likely on the ground and unable to properly see what was happening. I think the bitch was trying to kill me at this point though she may have been focused on Smriti.
Kumori took a beating, and while I don’t know it would have helped much had her done so sooner, he apparently did not come to the battle entirely focused on his mantra, so he did not challenge the brute straight off.
However, between Kumori and Coatl and Dusky, I was able to stand up and take on the bitch and the brute, and when I withdrew and Smriti was badly hurt, Iz helped her out from afar.
Smriti being awake meant that when the bitch moved to take up a good position to strike her, she at least caught a fist or two.
Honestly, the combat is muddled for me – between being unconscious once or twice by now, there was a lot of movement and even I withdrew briefly to try to position myself better for the next strike.
When the brute and bitch were dead, and his soul was consumed by my unholy relic (the call of which is great, such that I could only resist it maybe 1 out of twenty times that it calls to be fed), Kumori noticed smoke leaving the opening, like it was being fanned out from above.
Kumori went up the ladder first – several reasons for breaking with protocol, namely that he saw it first, he wasn’t as engaged with looting the bodies, and he didn’t have the general ‘let them come down to their death’ mentality that I was considering – not a lot of food up there, and laying siege to the place would only be dangerous while they had things to attack us with, after which they would either starve and die or just die.
However, the breach in protocol meant that I was not ahead nor checking for traps, and the bitch left a final present. Apparently, she had even triggered it, though I thought that meant it went off, not that it was armed. Ultimately, though, Smriti, Kumori, Coatl, and I all took a good singeing from a few balls of flame that also destroyed the ropes and knocked out Smriti. Since Smriti was unconscious, her fall was severe, but thankfully, Iz healed her before her injuries claimed her life.
That left Kumori 65 feet up, me about 55 feet up, and Coatl flying. He aided me in my climb down, which I appreciated, and Kumori climbed the summit, hoping to use his rope and grappling hook to climb down faster and easier than going by hand.
There were a few hobgoblins left in the cave, including a dog who carried a hob-whelp inside, and they put up a bit of a resistance once they came out and saw what was happening.
Since the tower was leaning, it was evocative of a horror that defies description – trapped atop a burning and crumbling structure, their options were to fall and hope that they bounced or try to make several quick and likely equally fatal tries to scale down the tower itself.
Kumori did make it, though not without losing his rope to the savages. He has a grappling hook, and I think we recovered it from the rubble, as well as a magical pack, full of items that the Mayor had sent us out to find.
I think the mayor rewarded us fairly well. I’ve not tallied the goods exactly, but even split 6 ways, there’s a good chance that some of the items the bugbears and the hobgoblin shaman had will be put to use or resold.
I wonder if Smriti can use the longspear – it won’t be as easy for her to use as a dart, perhaps, but I could see her moving up, striking the foe with her Scorpion style, moving back, and then spearing them, never letting them close on her.
Unfortunately, since she’s not strong, there’s a definite disadvantage to the spear.
Kumori is both proficient and strong, but he’s not likely to trade the poetry of the sword for the whistle of the spear.
I am proficient but I face the same obstacles that Smriti does to using it.
Dusky is unfortunately not an option due to her size, and Iz’Alma and her shield make poor choices for a two-handed weapon.
I suppose Coatl could use it with the same caveats as Smriti or myself, and if he has a spell to simulate the rage of the brute, he (or someone of his choosing) may even be able to properly benefit from it.
Since we’re going to spend at least the rest of the day in town, resting and recovering, I will ask Coatl his thoughts.
He’s busy as I write studying the scrolls that Iz was carrying, trying to see if he can scribe them to his spell book or at least use some.