Runequest Thursday # - 207 - Old Flintnail Fort!

Clint Staples

As the Brightwater Company wanders The Big Rubble, I have been detailing some of the places they are exploring. The most recent session has them part way through an investigation of the Old Flintnail Fort, on the slope of Bliind King's Hill, just outslde the walls that surround Blind King's Castle. If you are looking for a terrific map of the Big Rubble, you cannot do better than Simon Phipp's map, that includes links and notes on various locales (including the ones that I have done here previously, like the Xaragang Warren).


Here are my notes on Blind King's Hill, and the Old Flintnail Fort. Attachements include the map as a pdf, stats for all creatures required for the little temple crawl, and stats for the mysterious stranger that might also be encountered.

Blind King’s Hill

The hill is surrounded by a mostly complete curtain wall, of much more recent construction than The Wall, and between 5 and 20 feet in height. There are two gateways, neither of which has a gate, though one has an more or less intact gatehouse. It is said to be inhabited by Zorak Zoran trolls, as well as by beastfolk vampires, though surely both the rumors cannot be true. The Red Citadel, a ruined tower of red stone similar to some ruins to be found in the Great Marsh near Brightwater, was said to date from the time of the Empire of the Wyrms Friends.  

Old Flintnail Fort
The Flintnail Fort, which the Orlanthi outlaws occupied before 2nd Moonbroth, and in which Zoe’s Runelady trial was held, is below and outside the walls of Blind King’s Hill. In Mostali fashion it incorporates the Runes associated with the worship of Flintnail: Earth, Harmony, and Stasis. The Fort, which was once a shrine, is built in the shape of the Earth Rune, with towers that partake of the stasis rune at each corner. Three narrow staircases in the interior of the fort represent a Harmony rune, and lead downward, through a semi-circular opening in the earth.

Note: Everywhere within the bounds of the Fort is heavily Earth-aspected, which reduces the Magnitude of any fire, air, or water magic by 2, or increases the POWer cost of such magic by 2 POW. Earth magic is instead boosted by 1 Magnitude, or reduced by 1 POW.

Currently, the subterranean sanctum is overrun by scorpionids. The key (below), references the image of the Fort, and its underground component:

A – The entry into the Shrine (see #1 on lower section). Three narrow staircases lead down under a stasis rune shaped vault in the earth.
B – Gate: The gate was once a double, but half has fallen in with the other debris of the collapsed tower. This is the easiest way inside the fort. When warded by the Orlanthi, and others with an eye to security, guards are generally posted at each tower, and another at the end of the gate, where there is the remains of a small cupola for the gate-dwarf).
C – the walls of the fort are 20 feet high when intact, which is for most of their span. Though much pitted, they are still strong, except for the southeast tower, which was brought down by a significant force some time in the distant past. Dwarf-built, the rest of the structure is still quite sound. The northeast tower is another matter, and much of the stonework there has begun to give way (Dex x5% to avoid falling).

1 – The Vault (A above).
2 – The staircases become equally close passages that each lead to a door. The passages are quite narrow. Anyone Size 16 or more must make a Squeeze check (DEX x5%, reduced by 1 multiple for each size over 15 you are) or get stuck for 1d4 rounds. The passages are all separate and coordinating activity down more than one may prove difficult. Should someone get stuck, there is no simple way for others in different passages to know.
3 – All three doors (closed but not locked) open into the Shrine (another room shaped like the Earth rune), now occupied by the scorpionids and their victims. The stench is terrible when a door is opened: a mixture of dust, insectile musk, rot and putrifaction (CON x3%, or a Battle Skill check to withstand, otherwise, you lose a major action in horror and sudden nausea).

The scorpionids have no guards posted, above or below ground, but may become aware if the adventurers make undo noise (collective Listen and Spot: 55%). In which case the immature scorpionids will crowd forward, expecting the return of foragers, or infiltrators, both of which are greeted with the same relish.

There are nine young, three of which will move to each door, where they will mob whatever comes through, adjusting as necessary if fewer doors are employed to enter. The mature scorpionids will remain back, casting spells when the have time, then moving forward as the little ones are taken out. They have no real concern for the fate of their own young.

In the corners of the room, there are several bodies or portions thereof, all human.
1 – An orlanthi outlaw, head missing, wearing a mailshirt, and leather legs, A hand and a half warhammer with a Bludgeon 3 matrix lies near his severed hand (1d10+2), he also has a fighting knife at his belt, and his good arm wears a ring of silver (130L).
2 – A fellow with no runic affiliations, wearing grey leather under a black hardened leather breastplate. His arm and lower leg are missing. He has three knives on baldrics, and a vial of something (Heal 4 potion) in a belt pouch, along with 21L and 4c.
3 – An Arroin Saint of the Mericful Sword heroquester, named Alcuin. Once he was a Humakti runelord by the name of Alain. Then he died in a raid on Sog’s Ruin, and his soul was for some reason not free to join Humakt. Unable to join Humakt, Arroin appeared to him instead, and said that Death was not yet ready for him. Arroin gave him the name Alcuin and set him to heroquest to find a way to the Deathlands of Humakt, thus recreating the Deathlands Trek Heroquest of Arroin. Alcuin, as may be seen by those who investigate further, is in the process of failing that quest, and may be aided or rescued by the adventurers.

Alcuin is clad in somewhat gnawed limed-white leather armor, marked with the Runes for Death, Truth and Earth. He has a torq with 2 uses of Heal 6, within it. His sword, a fine steel longsword, is lying under him, partially covered by refuse and offal (Spot). One eye has been eaten, and one arm severed at the elbow. Alcuin’s allied spirit (Rosalinda, IN 13, POW 15). remains in the vicinity, and has evaded detection by Gordana (the leader of the scopionids). She will advocate for the heroes entering the Hero Plane and returning with Alcuin’s soul, which was drawn there as he died. It is also possible that the heroes might undertake Alcuin's Heroquest, or aid him in doing so, which will likely be the subject of a future post.

Alcuin’s body has been gnawed but is otherwise whole and could be resurrected if desired. See The Portal to the Hero Plane for details.

The Hero Plane: The Cyst of Stone:
With the aid of Rosalinda, The Company can open the portal to the Hero Plane.

The area beyond the portal is a grey, roughly cubic, cyst of stone, one hundred feet on a side. Stalactites and stalagmites protrude from every face – up, down and sideways, occasionally meeting those opposite or to either side in a dizzying array of uneven columns that could be used as ladders, walkways or jumping-off points.

The interior of the cyst is heavily Earth-aspected, and any with another elemental connection (Air, Storm) feel this immediately. All can make a magic Skill check to note that there is an ongoing corruption of the Earth here that seeps through to Glorantha, poisoning the area around the portal. Earth and Chaos magic are done as though 2 ranks more powerful. Other elemental energies are inhibited by the same degree. There is not even a hint of breeze, and the air feels close and heavy.

On all sides of the cubic room, between the stalactites, there are occasional pools of slime that roil and bubble like molten tar, occasional tendrils of which loop lazily outward for a moment or two, before plopping back to the pool. These pools hiss at the edges, and it can be seen that they are slowly eating away the earth that makes up the cube.

Spot checks, or a Magical Sense success, will note something trapped in a cage created by the intersection of several stalactites projecting from the walls. With difficulty a route may be seen to reach it, but climbing, leaping or flying (-2 Magnitude here) to the prison. Within the cage is Alcuin’s essence (trapped here when his body died).

To reach the Cage: A series of checks (some or all of which might be replaced by good ideas from the players):
1.    INTx3% or Mapmaking – to plot a route to the Cage. This may be done by anyone, who can then explain the route to those making the ascent. Success grants one retry on a subsequent movement-related check for each multiple of INT by which the roll was a success.
2.    Athletics check to climb the first stalactite part way. Failure means falling, doing 1d6 to a single location (No AP), unless a Luck check (POWx5%) fails – in which case the fall is into the nearby chaos pool – Attacking with POW 24 and doing 1d8 CON damage each round, until at 0 CON, you become a Gorp.
3.    Athletics check to transfer to a crossing stalagmite that runs horizontally nearer to the cage. Failure as 2 above, including the POWx5% check to avoid a chaos pool, but the fall damage is 2d6 damage.
4.    Athletics check to Jump, or Magic to Fly (remember it is suppressed by 2 Magnitude), to get from the end of the horizontal stalagmite to the vertical one rising to the cage. Earth magic could also be used (+2 Magnitude) to lengthen one of the arms, or bridge the gap, as could ice or other spells of the sort. Failure as above, including the POWx5% check to avoid a chaos pool, but a fall is now 3d6 damage.
5.    The Cage: An opening in the cage must be made large enough for Alcuin to escape. This can be done in any number of ways, including lightning bolts and other destructive magic (though likely at -2 Magnitude), even by damaging the cage with weapons (Axes, picks, hammers and maces, like the Bludgeon Hammer on body #1, are ideal for this). The stalactites and stalagmites of the cage have 8 AP, and 8 HP, and regenerate 2 HP per turn. The cage must be dealt 24 damage (removing 3 "bars" of the cage) to free Alcuin.

When Alcuin is free, he can use his earth connection to alter the environment, creating a crude to effective stairway to the ground near the portal – which gleams and mists like a smoking mirror nearby. The earth then settles and the place loses some of its earthy potence. The chaotic essence cannot, alas, be dispelled, but if the cyst is broken, the chaotic miasma will disperse in time, and the portal will be free once more – assuming that the scorpionids have been slain. If they continue to inhabit the shrine, the chaos will continue to build until it erupts into Glorantha.

It is a simple matter to exit the cyst, whether or not they have rescued Alcuin (he will however, be consumed by chaos shortly thereafter). Should the heroes wish, they could also continue on the Hero Plane, accompanying Alcuin, or on their own.