Friday, February 21, 2014

K24 - Lemmings

Previous Scene: Live session

Location: Durin’s Bridge
Present: Gror, Bain, Khazek, Thordar
NPCs: Goldo, Gesdrek, 3 X Mithril units.

Special Circumpstances:
  • Everyone’s Will is at -1 at the moment to reflect a malaise that is affecting the invading force.

  • Khazek and Thordar have awaken the ancestors inadvertently.
  • They are crossing the gap through the two beams straddling the unending well. Many lose their footing and fall down, some are shot down by the crossbowmen from the Mithril, the few making across are dispatched by Gror who is blocking the way.
  • There may be over 1000 such ancestors is the Hall of filled as it looks.
  • The dwarves as they are have failed their morale check by 5 (including malaise and terror of the ancestors). This sets the bar to how difficult it will be to do anything with these units.

Gesdrek and Khazek are forming a second line to back Gror up if any of the ancestors are making it across the bridge. However, the whole thing looks like a suicidal lemming run. Gesdrek exclaims that his hunch is that this was meant to happen. Bain frowns.

“Something is making these corpses walk. These are just shells. I need to investigate the crypts on the 4th level to interrogate the tombs and find out how it started.”

The dwarves contemplates the situation as the crossbowmen are bleeding precious bolts against a seemingly endless trickle of enemies.

A subset of the dwarves present are pressing against the leaders and are crying to launch an assault. The impulse is not cohesive and behaves more as a mob than a military unit.

Bain140220- Bain frowns some more. “Stop. Stop.  This is not right.  This curse is making us fight ourselves. We need to stop.”  He gives orders to retract the bridge after capturing a few of the ancestors. “Gror, son, stand down. This is not the way to solve this problem. We are playing into the schemes of whatever set this up.”  

He turns to his loremaster. “Gesdrek, these are our kinfolk. Break this curse. What resources do you need to get to the fourth level?”

The bridge is retracted amidst the jeers from both the dwarves and the ancestors. The two sides face each other for a minute until the clamor dies down a bit. Bain can see a strange craze in the eyes of his dwarves.

“I do not know the way, but I know that the ancients had built their crypts on the 4th level. The Marzabul stairs are going through for what we know.”, explains Gesdrek.

Oror Marbleminer, the leader of the Moor-Lot stands nearby. “This place is like swiss cheese: there are passages everywhere.” The locals must know more than we do. Maybe we should raid for prisoners?

Gror, takes a step back. Rubs his eyes. “Maybe we can punch our way up, or at least make enough of a fuss to let a few of us through. The stairs in hope to find a way up.”

Bain140220- Bain ponders for a bit, pacing back and forth, his hands clasped behind his back.

Bain knows that the Marzabul stairs is crossing the Unending well between the 2nd and 3rd level. He also know that there are a number of places in Khazad-dum that are adjoining the well, in some place narrow enough to poke at the other side with a poleaxe. The main problem is to find a way up! There is the Marzabul stairs, there is the endless stairs as well that are somewhere beyond the hall of trees (The main vertical passage spanning the full complex). Bain’s main stroke of inspiration comes when he runs down all the knowledge that he read about and realize that the 2nd level of KD is the Host level. It is meant to house a full weapon host (3000 dwarves) and is highly connected to the rest of the old city for defensive reasons. Finally, since the  ancestors walked there, a good tracker may just be able to follow the track back to where it came.  

Bain140220- Bain pauses in his pacing, then turns to his son. “General, we need to get to the second level fort. If we can secure that, we will have a much better chance of exerting control where we need to.  This is not a scouting mission, it’s meant to establish a base for our continued efforts. Figure out how to do that and make it happen.”

Bain then turns to some of the lot currently guarding the bridge and engages them in conversation.  He’s trying to get a feel for how and why they are reacting as they are.  Is this a natural desire to fight and the malaise is the result of being thwarted? Or does it feel odd or unnatural?

Bain is a master at understanding how other people think and react. This has been his business for almost his entire career. Bain feels like he just ingested a huge amount of alcohol very fast and cannot turn back: something has got to happen. He peers across the chasm, feels like the dwarves could take the ancestors. He sits down for a moment. Gror, concerned, kneels down to ask if he is ok. Bain snaps out of his daze. He notices a fully grown warrior across the hall quietly whimpering for some reason.

Yes, something is strange and he is not a stranger to it. His head clears. He grabs Gror’s open hand and rises to his feet.

“I can feel this too.”, says Gesdrek. “There is a curse gnawing at us. We better get to the source of it. My bet is that the Balrog hasn’t been put to rest properly.”

Bain doesn’t pay attention to the Loremaster at first as he is trying to pass some instructions to Khazek. The ranger acquiesce and send out a few of his men.

“Did you say the Balrog?”, asks Bain finally.

“I’ve seen this before. A long, long time ago when Sauron was first defeated. I’m not saying that the Balrog walks, but he lingers… trapped into things, trying to get into our minds.”

Bain140221 -  The old Dwarf growls at these words. “Marvelous. As I see it, now I need two more things.” A gauntleted index finger extends. “One, I need to put this thing to rest as you say, and two,” another finger extends, “I need a way to keep the curse from affecting the troops until we achieve item one.  Are you my only resource for solving these problems?  If not, who else should I be talking to, and how can they help?  If you can lay it to rest quickly, we may not need to devote much attention to managing the curses effect on the troops, but if not, we could win the battle and lose the war if we all go insane.”

Bain is acutely aware that only Gesdrek has the background to grapple with the unexplainable. He wish that this wasn’t the case. However, and rather unusually, Gesdrek replies in plain language:

“I need to be somewhere that has seen how the curse started. I can interrogate inanimate object to release sight of the past. All that I could see up there was the ancestor walking in. The crypts where they came from seems like a good enough guess for me. As for the curse, I think that this will eat up at our minds slowly. I doubt that it extends much beyond the gates since nothing unusual was reported by Ardacer… and they spent a good two weeks encamped.”

This is untested, but the troops may have to rotate in and out of Khazad-dum until the curse is lifted. How long can they stay? Hard to tell. A good leader can certainly wrangle them right now.

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