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Hackmaster episode 22

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 8 months ago

Night of the Hobbits!

 

As night falls in the Great Western Desert of Greyhack, three nomads seat themselves around the campfire. They have spent the day hunting their tribe’s staple source of protein, the lesser spotted Tinny bird and, though tired and hungry, are satisfied with their day’s work. The oldest of the nomads pokes the fire with the long piece of cane he uses to help him walk, sending a shower of sparks high into the dark desert air. “Pull up a pew cobbers”, he says “I gotta tale that’ll rattle yer dags and’ll scare the shit out of a dunny.” One of the younger nomads shivers slightly despite the fire and the heat from the still-warm sand. His companion sees this and grins at the old man, “Look at that sheila. Leave your lippy behind did ya love? Blow him Trev, chuck us another Tinny tell us your tale.”

 

Our story involves six brave adventurers:

There was Hero Tops the hero, a brave fighter famous for the long boring stories he told about his dad.

There was Bic the ranger, renowned for having once deterred a mortal blow from an orc chieftain’s blade by cacking his trousers and crying like a little girl.

There was Cedar the druid, known to smelly hippies everywhere for his range of herbal teas and his taste in women’s jewellery.

There was Aseravb the mage, bearer of the feared Wand of Wuss-Slapping and the Headband of Focus.

There was Mahatma Sri Sri Sai Maharishi Bhagwan the mystic, who was called Bhagy and was known through-out the land because he had hired a flashy PR guy to make him famous. Sort of like a Charlotte Dawson of the Wild Coast with a spangle-trousered bard instead of women’s magazines to make him famous.

And there is Noddy the paranoid Halfling thief, who would really rather that he wasn’t famous at all.

Having slain the witch Rebecca for a second time, these brave adventurers returned to Farzy to train and to heal. Bhagy joined Owin’s “Merchants’” Guild so that he could train under the mage Marla. He and Aseravb took the opportunity of a break in adventuring to summon familiars. A sadistic dungeon cat came to Aseravb and a smelly, not particularly bright hawk which could communicate only in pantomime came to Bhagy.

The mystic was less than pleased with his side-kick.

While the others trained and added to the party’s already extensive menagerie, Bic travelled to Frandor’s Keep. He had been troubled by strange dreams and by a familiar cackle which seemed forever just out of the edge of his hearing. He sought the advice of a kindly young priest of Luvia, a man called Harcus. Harcus made Bic a cup of tea and talked about the weather, his geraniums and the success of his bingo initiative in keeping spirits up amongst the Keep’s elderly population. Bic sought more than this though, and eventually persuaded the young priest to perform a ceremony involving a pentagram, a mouse and a lead box. This ceremony seemed to go as planned, although Harcus did not seem entirely convincing in his explanation of why the mouse expired so unexpectedly. Feeling a little dissatisfied, Bic contented himself by returning to Farzy and parading up and down the main street in flashy clothes in an attempt to impress the locals.

 

“Geez, Trev. Is this story going anywhere mate?”, “Hang in there cobber, the wheels on this old Holden are just beginning to turn.”

 

Eventually, it was time to adventure once more. The party reconvened at their old stomping ground - Jolly’s Tavern. But as they approached the front door, it became clear that they were not meeting on any ordinary “Half Price for the Ladies” Tuesday. Bunting coated the outside of the inn, and much din could be heard within. Shrieks of laughter, the tooting of pipes and the banging of drums proclaimed as loudly as the banner over the door saying “Congratulations to Elanor and Billy on their Special Day” that a Halfling wedding was occurring within. Hero Tops’ sword, Halfling Bane, buzzed in excitement, much to Noddy’s annoyance and discomfort.

The party were surprised to be greeted by the lovely bride-to-be, Elanor, and her father and were welcomed in for pre-wedding drinks. Much laughter greeted their entry, foreshadowed as it was from a shriek by Elanor that “Ooooh look, the male strippers have finally arrived – two days too late boys, the hen’s night was on Sunday”. Elanor gave Hero Tops’ backside a cheeky slap and bade her brother to bring the adventurers a pint. Muttering quietly to her father that she didn’t “want that ghastly big one at my wedding” and pointing to Bic, she rejoined her shrieking young Halfling friends. Clarry, Elanor’s hard-pressed and perspiring father, smiled wanly and smoothed the waters by ordering more drinks. Noddy tried to chat up the bridesmaids and bought a tun of the bar’s best wine for the merrymakers, Hero Tops placed a gift of cash on the present table and Cedar tootled happily with the band, much to Merryweather the bard’s obvious distaste. Indeed, such was Merryweather’s discomfort that he stopped the band to strum the ballad of Hero Tops, Lizard King and show the revellers what real music was made of. A round of polite applause greeted his performance, which was quickly drowned out by cheers as the tooting, parping and banging started up again. An appalled Merryweather departed quickly to find alternative accommodation for the night.

As preparations for the wedding ceremony itself got underway, the party saw a sour looking Halfling enter with a platter of strong smelling blue cheese, caper berries and sun-dried tomatoes. The barman, a stout bald human with a bushy beard, approached them and wrung his cap anxiously. “I’m terribly sorry, kind sirs, Mr Jolly said you mights be coming, but I’m afraid we’re fully booked for the evening. If you wants, though, I can have young Pip here make up some beds in the stables. It’ll be clean and dry, and I’ll arrange for the cook to bring you our finest food by way of compensation. I hope that suits you.” Little Pip, a little awed by the reputation of his guests, led the party outside and showed them to their quarters, which were clean and dry as promised.

Bhagy tried to tell his hawk to go outside and perch on the roof to keep watch for the night, but it just looked confused, so he chucked it out the door and pointed at the ceiling. Five minutes later a thud was heard as the dim-witted bird tried to get back inside, bounced off a window and slid down the pane. Aseravb’s dungeon cat watched this with an amused sneer upon its face. The mage used magic to summon a mouse and fed this to the feline, which purred contentedly.

 

“Come on Trev, this wedding nonsense is makin’ me thongs curl.”, “Give us a fair shake of the dingo mate and just let me tell the damn story. I’m coming to the good bit, I promise ya.”

 

As the rest of party slept contentedly, Bic dreamt terrible dreams. He saw himself standing over piles of Halfling corpses waving his arms as the voices of Rebecca the witch and Harcus the priest laughed over him. He awoke with a start, sweating heavily.

A scream was heard from outside the stable. Bic and his companions raced through the door to see a terrified wedding guest run from the tavern, his garters flapping in the breeze. Behind him came four more guests, their movements stiff, their skin grey and their eyes glowing dully. “Braaaaains!” they murmured as they moved. Through an upstairs tavern windows the party could see more of the stiff-looking Halflings attack a screaming woman, blood splattered across the window to block their view as her scream came to a sudden end.

The fleeing Halfling tripped and the zombies were on him at once, tearing into his flesh and sucking the brains from his skull. Despite wearing nothing more than their PJs, our heroes leapt to the fight and a torturous battle was joined. Limb was hacked from zombie limb but still the creatures fought on. Arms and legs lay on the ground and blood pumped from stumps as the oblivious creatures staggered forward. Bic and Cedar were both struck before the bushy-faced barkeeper and the cook staggered from inside the tavern. Both were coated with blood and the cook had a grubby head-band around his brow. The barkeep was armed with a shovel and the cook with a meat-cleaver. They rushed forward and laid into one of the brain-eating zombie’s from behind, yelling that the adventurers should “aim for the heads, it’s the only way to stop them.”

Soon Hero Tops sword was humming with pleasure as Halfling blood and skull fragments filled the air. One mighty blow from Bic saw to the last of the brain-eating zombies and sent gore and pieces of brain splattering over Hero Tops. “Mmmmm, braaaaains” muttered the hero quietly to himself. “Braaaaaains!” agreed Cedar softly.

While the battle outside the tavern had ebbed and flowed, Bhagy and Aseravb had snuck inside. They came across a seen of gore and terror as Halfling corpses filled the bar. One Halfling still appeared alive, slumped over the bar with a drink in his hand as a brain-eating zombie approached. Pushing himself up his feet, this Halfling turned to see his assailant. “What ‘cho looking at? Look at me funny will ya?” he slurred as he put up his dukes. Aseravb knocked both to the ground with a blast of magical light and then quickly cut the zombie’s head off as Bhagy raced up the stairs. Another brain-eating zombie lurched towards him. It was the nastiest creature he had seen. It was the mother-in-law. Aseravb knocked this creature to the ground with another blast of magic and she collapsed.

 

A faint call for help came from the main bedroom and Bhagy burst in to find the groom, Billy, hiding under a bed. Billy described how his guests started dying after the toasts, speeches and cheese. He said some of them then stood up again and attacked those who will still alive. The bar was filled with blood and chaos and from this mess came one guest, Furble, now dressed in a cape and mask to steal his beloved Elanor away. Billy saw Furble drag Elanor down a manhole, but he was then forced to flee as brain-eating zombie wedding guests chased him.

Bic, thrown into a bout of depression by the nagging thought that he might somehow be responsible for this slaughter, raced towards the manhole cover. He tore this off and leapt into the hole below. Seeing this, Noddy leapt in after him, forgetting that Bic wore a Ring of Fall Softly. As Bic floated down the steep shaft below the manhole, he was hit by the plummeting thief. In a twirl of arms, legs and cursing, both figures crashed downwards and smashed into the floor of the damp sewer-pipe below.

The rest of the party used the ladder.

Bic spotted a piece of white wedding dress caught on a nail and raced off down a sewer pipe, pursued rapidly by the Halfling who yelled that he should be in front so that he could check for traps. Noddy tried to use his Cricket in a pea pod skill to roll between the rangers legs and take the lead, but failed and fell behind. His advice sadly was well-warranted, as Bic’s sprint was interrupted by a plummet through a pit-trap and into a reservoir of sewerage.

 

It was with great difficulty that Bic was removed from the stinking sewer. It could have been much easier if Cedar had agreed to take off his Anklets of Levitation, but the druid was not one to part with his jewellery easily. Instead a combination of a short piece of rope, a belt and a spear were bound by the quick fingered Noddy and used to haul the reeking Bic from the hole.

The ranger set off at speed once more, Noddy again charging behind and yelling that he should be in front. The others followed behind more sedately, but increased their pace when the sound of something following them was heard. At the rear of the party the panicked magic-users unleashed a torrent of magic back down the pipe to bring down a ravenous Carrion Crawler. Bhagy paused to pluck its corpse for spell ingredients.

Bic and Noddy came to a ladder leading upwards. Bic climbed this and was followed by Noddy and Hero Tops. At the top was a trapdoor and from behind this could be heard voices. Bic made out someone yelling from behind this, a voice cried “I don’t understand it, that cheese you gave me was just supposed to make them die, not turn them into brain-eating zombies!” Bic tried to open the trapdoor, but succeeded only in setting off a trap which sent him, Noddy and Hero Tops plummeting back down the shaft as the rungs on the ladder collapsed.

With the ladder now inoperable, Noddy clambered the slick walls. At the top he braced himself and used his dungeon artiste skills to pick the trapdoor lock. Pushing the cover open slightly, he saw a terrified Elanor tied to a chair as a caped Furble and two accomplices talked to Noddy’s old nemesis, Lupin - head of a rival Thieves Guild. Noddy, once a member of Lupin’s guild, recognised this room as the heart of the thief’s lair.

Realising that few of his companions would be able to reach the trapdoor without the ladder, Noddy clambered down and led most of them back down the sewer. A levitating Cedar and a meditating Bhagy were left behind. From behind the trapdoor Cedar heard a voice, Furble’s he reasoned, telling Elanor that they were meant for each other and that she will learn to love him.

Noddy took Hero Tops, Aseravb and Bic outside again. He raced to the rear-entry of an old warehouse and examined the door. He found and disarmed a deadly looking trap, but the lock itself was beyond him. He instructed his companions to smash down the door and this was done with some difficulty. Noddy knew that beyond this lay the entry to Lupin’s lair, a stone “Waiting Room”, featureless but for a small grill. This grill proved immoveable so Noddy raced back to the stables to fetch his thief tools and a crowbar. Using these, the grill was jemmied open and the Halfling quickly slipped through the tiny hole he had created. On the other side he found the controls he knew were there, and used these to open two secret doors. One allowed his companions through and the second opened a door leading down to Lupin’s inner sanctum.

Once the door’s were open, the companions charged down stairs into Lupin’s offce as Lupin, Furble and the henchmen drew their swords and turned to face them. Aseravb threw a Sleep spell ahead of the party and the henchmen collapsed. From the trapdoor burst Cedar spraying a swarm of insects into the face of the startled Lupin. Bhagy, concentrating furiously and with his ankles wrapped around his ears in a serene but painful looking pose, rose mystically through the trapdoor behind the druid and fired a Charm spell at the rattled Lupin. This had as little tangible effect on the battle as Bic’s dashing assault, the ranger carving his initials (well initial) skilfully into the thief’s chest. The ranger’s dazzling sword work did however have a wonderful impact on his reputation. Aseravb also tried to garner honour from the situation by wading in with his Wand of Wuss-Slapping but failed spectacularly when he missed Lupin and ended up slapping his own face, much to everyone’s general amusement. While his companions tried the fancy stuff, Hero Tops rolled up his sleeves and got dirty, slicing off the screaming Furble’s arm with a single mighty blow. Aseravb successfully struck with another blow from his wand as a swing from Lupin’s sword missed Noddy by a hair’s breadth (well it would have if the prematurely balding Halfling had any hair). Lupin, shamed by the blow from Aseravb’s wand turned to attack the mage, but he and Furble were struck down before he could land a single strike.

Victorious, but anxious that members of Lupin’s gang could return at any moment, Noddy started looting as quickly as he could. He disarmed and unlocked a chest to reveal two potions and a quarterstaff which had a belt clip and was magically folded into a small wedge (it must be a thief’s weapon he later reasoned, because that would explain the name “Leatherman” written on the side). Another chest he opened with less success, a fiery blast singing the recently regrown eyebrows from his face. This blast did not damage the content of the chest however, and from inside he took a pile of coins and five gems – only one of which Noddy found was real. Lupin’s mahogany desk did not appear trapped, and from this Noddy took some papers and an Edmund’s Cookbook: Assassins’ Edition. A page in this book was marked and explained how to make a lethal limburger cheese. A note at the bottom of this page remarked that a necromancer’s assistance may be used to infect the cheese with a virus which turned corpses (and the living, although it took longer to affect them) into brain-eating zombies. The book noted that crackers blessed by a priest of Luvia will cure the virus in the living.

Our story ends with the Halfling thief trying to lug the mahogany desk up the stairs while Cedar and Hero Tops starred hungrily at Lupin’s corpse and muttered “braaaaains!” to each other. Hero Tops reverie was only interrupted to berate Bic for causing this night’s chaos and for the ranger to argue angrily that this charge was false.

 

“Crickey mate. What happened after that?” “Ahhhhh,” said the wizened old nomad as he stirred the fire with his stick, “that is a tale for another night.”

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