Runequest Thursday #198 - A Trip into Trolltown!

Clint Staples

After a signifcant hiatus, and the loss of one player, The Brightwater Company ventured forth once more last Friday! If you recall, a while back I regaled you with their doings in Moonbroth. They continued onward with a portion of the "Army of Allies" to peacefully retake Horn Gate and Corflu, at which point the allies went their separate ways - with the Brightwaters returning home to, well, Brightwater.

The plan of action for last session was a reconaissance of The Big Rubble, with the hope that they might infiltrate Pavis, and the pipe dream that they might be able to confront a lone Lunar Governor or two. They also intended to make some sort of attack on the Xaragang trolls of Trolltown, because one of their number had the temerity to attempt to bind Jagrun Khan, who is a spirit lord patron of the Brightwater Company generally, and the master of one of them - the sorcerer Wyrmhere Ironhand. As sometimes happens in a game, they got a little sidetracked in the planning stages, specifically trying to figure out the best way into the Rubble and Pavis. They decided that they would take a river boat (Brightwater, the settlement they founded, owns several and they could readily requistion one) up the Zola Fel, past the walls, and into the Big Rubble.

Given the clouds and rain of early Dark Season, they figured that the trolls guarding the Troll Bridge OVER the Zola Fel inside the Rubble would be heavily and vigilantly on duty day or night - the reasoning being that trolls, as nocturnal creatures who hate the sun, would find the darkness of the heavy cloud and rain easier to bear and be out in greater numbers. It should be noted that none of the heroes of Brightwater have Troll Lore, so I did not correct them in these assumptions - which were not completely off base. Trolls are often more active in Dark Season, for the previously state reasons, as well as the fact that many of their religious observances occur in this season and they need to make sure they have stocks of food laid in.

In any event, after drawing their boat up from the river just outside the walls surrounding the Rubble, and making a haphazard attempt to campflage it agaisnt discovery, the Brightwater Company began skirting the exterior of the Pavis wall, heading for the Troll Break, where there was a troll market (run by the same Xaragang trolls, from what they had heard). They successfully made their way to the edge of the Troll Break, to find it populated by a significant number of trolls and trollkin, and a few visitors who decided to brave the downpour for a trolldeal (whatever that might be, but don't eat it, just to be safe).

As GM, my thought had been that they would attack THESE Xaragang trolls, because they were the right clan to satisfy Jagrun Khan's thirst for vengeance AND because they were conveniently near the entrance to the Rubble, so the Brightwaters would not have to wander the breadth of Trolltown looking for some Xaragang trolls to waylay AND because, as merchants, or the guards of merchants, they would have some of the better troll loot, or if not, at least loot that trolls though humans would like more.

It was mistaken of me to so believe . . .

Instead, the Brightwater Company wanted to sneak through the Troll Break and the market, and wander the breadth of Trolltown looking for some Xaragang trolls to waylay. OKAY! 

So that is what they did. I called for Move Silently checks, reasoning that trollish nightsense is just as likely to be confused by a really strong rain as any other sense, so I reduced the trolls perception chances. Too, trolls are lazy by nature, and no more interested in being in the sluicing rain than anyone else, so I decided that most of the perception rolls would reflect trollkin detailed to watch while their mistresses and masters sat in comparative comfort in their tents and hovels. Suffice to say that the Brightwaters succeeded at passing the Troll Break. 

Except for Lead Belcher, the Argan Argar troll that another band of Brightwaters met in the Great Bog when they were out searching for some rustled cattle.

Lead Belcher, so named for the pair of ivory-handled Mostali lead throwers that he carried, was lounging under his heavy traveling umbrella, feet up on a trollkin, when a bunch of Umani snuck round the corner of the Troll Break and stumbled over the shappy leg of his sleeping giant spider - who did not even rouse in the chill and rain - and into his camp. Now Lead Belcher was a Xaragang troll, but apparrently not the Xaragang troll the Brightwaters had come after. So instead of attacking, the Brightwaters began to look at the jumble of, admittedly soggy, wares surrounding them. With his spider slowly rousing, and his baboon slave hiding to ambush like a good baboon, Lead Belcher was satisfied to keep one mostali device cocked and hidden under his poncho and, over the dark lenses of his traveling spectacles, regard the Brightwaters with growing interest.

He noticed the sorcerer's mechanical hand at the same moment that Wyrmhere chose to ask about the merchant's own Mostali devices. Admitting they were Dwarven work and from the Clanking Ruin caused the sorcerer to produce a Power Disk, one of the segmented disposable power crystals common in the Ruin, but rare beyond. Lead Belcher showed Wyrnhere that one of his devices had the proper receptable for such a crystal, and made a few opening offers for it. Eventually the two settled on Wyrmhere receiving a bundle of well-tanned sable hides. By then the spider was getting hungry, so Lead Belcher suggested the Brightwaters take themselves off, indicating a heading to northward would likely prolonge their lives, rather than south into the heart of Trolltown.

As the Brightwaters did as they were instructed, Lead Belcher's footstool resumed his duties, and the troll-merchant went back to dozing, scarcely grunting when the spider grabbed a sleepy trollkin for dinner.

The Brightwaters in fact, did not do as instructed.  They had a destination in mind all along, and it "happened" to be to the north of the Troll Break. They remembered a journey through the northern portion of the Big Rubble when Zoe Brightblade was on her way to challenge for Rune status in the cult of Orlanth. The Brightwaters had come this way before and were confronted by a troll riding a giant dragonfly, which they knew had belonged to the Xaragang trolls, so the Company thought that this area must be close to the stronghold of the Xaragang.

The Brightwaters knew that the giant dragonfly farmers were Xaragang because one of the Company, the Praxian shaman, Ughari, had spoiled the deal between the Lunars and one of the Xaragang trollwives of Gorakiki Dragonfly to tend a shrine to the goddess of vermin at Corflu, with the intent of keeping the giant mosquitos under control - all of which had been under Lunar contract to make Corflu more habitable. The Brightwaters were not aware that this act on Ughari's part was what had made the Xaragang trolls take interest in tracking down and avenging themselves upon the magician who had managed to foil the deal. They had heard word of the famous Uman wizard, Wyrmhere, and assumed that he was responsible instead of Ughari. But to trolls one human magician is much the same as any other, and these two seemed to work together. ALSO, there was a powerful spirit lord near Wyrmhere's tower that was just ripe for binding - so the Xaragang did not worry overmuch whether their vengeance was exactly on target.

In any event, the Brightwater Company appeared to know where it was going all along - which is great - because it means what happened next is not my fault.

After managing to avoid contact as they traversed block after block of sodden, troll-infested, ruins, they came upon a great troll leading a caravan of guard beetles and their trollkin mahouts, as they herded a horde of ham beetles. The ham beetles had grown sluggish in the chill rain and darkness, and so the caravan was at soemthing of a standstill. The heroes had come upon the caravan by climbing up a pile of rubble inside a sizable structure, and were overlooking a watery trench that once had been a thoroughfare, now filled with the trollkin, beetles and a hummock of indescriminate aspect and nature. This bunch of potentially Xaragang trolls they deciced to attack - and did so by shooting a trollkin or two and beffudling the rest as they ran. The great troll surprised them when it surged to its feet with a confused roar. A crossbow bolt and a spear did nothing more than to point the irate creature in the right direction, and it charged swing its hammer-goad high. 

Safe from their height, the Brightwaters were somewhat taken aback by the ferocity, and sudden nearness, of the troll, or more accurately his hammer-goad - which smashed into the wall only a few inches beneath them, and shook the crumbling structure significantly. Alas, every member of the Company made their Athletics checks and none fell at the monster's feet. After a quick retreat, the fight was over as Ughari befuddled the greattroll, not much affecting its intelligence, but significantly impairing its ability to tell friend from foe. The fight ended for the Brightwaters, when it ran after the retreating backs of the beetles disturbed by the tumult.

Deciding to walk along the trench the beetle herd had just left, after some time they came upon a broad field of head-sized boulders that stretched for the better part of a bow-shot, before giving rise to a double hillock of piled boulders, refuse and mud. The rain had lessened, and they could see details through the drizzle: The lesser hillock was oddly flat-topped, and there was a low, broad swath of shadow indicative of an opening at the base of the other hillock. Even at this distance, the commingled drone of more than single droning thing arose from the flat hillock top. The Brightwater Company decided that they had arrived. 

I could find no fault in their reasoning. Although they had not happened upon the main stronghold of the Xaragang (whose seventy-five dark, great, and mistress race trolls, and their attendant horde of trollkin and giant insects might have proved too much for even these four powerful individuals), they had found the home of a Gorakiki Dragonfly priestess, as well as her husbands, their family and dependants, and a signifcant number of dragonflies of various sizes. Surely they were more than a match for that . . .

They seemed to think so as they approached without casting buffing spells, sensing for magic, or anything other than trying to stay quiet. In the players defense, it had been a while since they played Runequest, and sometimes you forget that prepping before a fight is usually the difference between life and death.

They descended into the wide throat of that shadowy cavern wading through knee deep muck at the bottom, and climbed a pair of uneven "stairs" to a spot where the passage opened into a much wider, and higher space, Though there was stench aplenty, there was no light to speak of and as Zoe empowered the Stormglaive for which she was named, others sensed their crossing some sort of barrier, which Wyrmhere identified as a type of ward. The  crawling lightning along the Stormglaive illuminated a vaulted space, cluttered with refuse, and much wider than the passage that they had trod in a uneven row rather than single file. Nearer at hand, they could see dragonflies the size of daggerfangs rising out of the clutter, which turned out to be cast-off carapaces of other dragonflies. The dragonflies' attack was preceded by a rather dismal hail of slingstones, as trollkin huddled back from the flickering glare. The small stones were joined by a pair of boulders, suspiciously like those over which the Company had clambered to get here, thrown with force enough to stagger Wyrmhere when one struck his leg.

Zoe met the dragonflies with Stormglaive, cleaving the legs along one side from the thing's torso, Falling, it scrabbled unevenly, gnashing mandibles that could easily decaptitate, and forcing Zoe back. Tana, once crimson dancer and prospective vessel of a Lunar demon, and now the lover of Wyrmhere Ironhand, whlrled between two nightmare heads, severing a wing from one body and the head from another, weaving away from the remaining bite and a cunningly hurled sling stone. Ughari loosed his fetch to heal the sorcerer's leg, and attempted unsuccessfully to Befuddle to too-simple brain of one of the dragonflies. Wyrmhere, his leg hale once more, conjured his fire elemental, loosing it to wreak havok among the slingers.

The dragonflies pressed forward, mandlbles clashing like striking canes, but each attack was evaded or turned by a blade. Zoe severed the head of another monster as Tana shattered or clove insectile legs and wings in a spinning whirlwiind of death. A single dragonfly struck, but she seemed even then to dance out of her doom, escaping with only a pair of thin bloody lines where two sharp spurs of carapace caught her shoulder. Wyrmhere, followed the advance with lightning at range, or longsword up close, finished the great bugs thrashing in the muck, these no longer able to move or rise for missing body parts. Ughari's fetch could sense the dar troll stone throwers beyond the light of Zoe's glaive sufficiently for the shaman to befunddle one, then the other. It would appear that the Brightwater Company had triumphed - taking vengeance upon the Xaragan trolls and repaying their debt to Jagrun Khan.

Until a dozen armored trolls, blazing with magic, poured from other rooms unseen in the deeper darkness, a tide of trollkin with spears and shields shrieking their shrieks of terror and rage preceding them.

The Company turned on their heels and ran. Scrambling over the rubble-field, they were overflown by a pair of much larger dragonflies than the adolescent ones they had slain within, these crewed by armored warrior trollkin who begain the rain once more - this time with lead sling shot. 

---

Since it was after 1 AM, that is where we left it. Now we have to wait until the end of the next month for what we hope will be "Return from Trolltown!" After this adventure winds up, I will post the encounter table for the trip, and the details and map for the Xaragang Troll-Warren.

If you look at the image at the top of the post, you can see the route of march taken by the Company and described in this account. From the river to the Troll Break, then along the outskirts of Trolltown until they reached their current predicament.