Decaying Lands 34: What Is Happening In This Basement

PCs Present & Played:

Barthelm, Specialist (James)
Tenkos, Cleric [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Last time Tenkos, Viggo, and Claus returned to the horrific basement of Cooper Thornhill's Stilton cheesemaking operation, slew (and dissected) the über muscle cow, and began investigating the library.

Barthelm rejoined the party! After getting his construction projects rolling back in Hommlet and making sure Polde was not in any danger after his return, Barthelm set out to catch up to his friends. 

During his time in Hommlet he learned that there has been far more traffic through the southern mountain pass due to an increase in disappearances along the northern roads. No bodies were found, just ransacked wagons. Even for folks who eventually needed to head back north there were still many opting to take the long way around through Hommlet and the southern pass.

On the way after them Barthelm passed through the Crossroads. His companions asked if he had seen any giant wandering armies of the undead but the only thing he noted was a number of folks who had fled without explanation, especially after being seen with the party. It was hard to tell if the rest of the group was relieved or disappointed about the lack of skeletons.

They talked about how they could delay discovery of the barn's basement while they tried to remove as much of the library as possible. Idea to have the faceless doctor (plague doctor) quarantine the building to give them time to clear things out. Debate about whether to notify the authorities or not.

"Are we concerned about the arch at all?"
"It does seem pretty powerful, but we do like to run away from incredibly powerful things and just leave them."

What if we just holed up in the basement for the day? Would we just have a ton of people looking for Cooper later? Let's have a rotation for anyone that comes down. If they come down into the basement, they are definitely guilty, so we can kill them with no remorse. What do we do with our wagon? What about your drug dealer friend? He would definitely betray us. Let's just go kill him and stay at his house!

Started to come up with a plan where Barthelm impersonates a plague / faceless doctor and all this stuff but then just decided for Barthelm to get a room at the inn with the party's cart. On the way out he encountered someone claiming to be the night watchman for the barn but was able to avoid confrontation.

The "night watchman" made their way down the stairs but fortunately Viggo was waiting for him. The bounty hunter immediately recognized Stephen Miller, the town's miller and pusher of various illicit and addictive substances. 

"See if he'll walk through the arch!"

Viggo got as much info as he could from Stephen Miller the drug dealer before showing him all of the horrible things in the basement. Miller threw up everywhere and begged to just go tell the captain of the guard about this place. Viggo dumped him in the corner with a threat to be quiet.

Barthelm met Cooper's wife, Mary, and procured some breakfast and a room after some incredibly difficult conversation. He was initially concerned but decided to sleep in case shit went down, propping a chair against the door for security.

Then Tenkos stabbed Stephen Miller! This was predicated by shouts and bangs from above as the sounds of a search party filtered down and it became clear that someone was going to be coming down into the basement. Tenkos' original plan was to setup Miller and Cooper like they had killed each other, so he started to drag him deeper into the basement but stopped when he started bleeding all over the place. Viggo took his manacles and they both retreated to the archway room, setting up some beartraps at the entrance just in case the guards were in on the whole operation.

Well and how! Captain Cuthill was calling out for Cooper the whole time but didn't get any response. His two lackeys seemed disturbed but the captain was not, and he rallied them. Cuthill began to call out for anyone else down here, saying that there didn't need to be bloodshed, until he got to the pens. Once he saw that all of the cow / human creatures were dead, especially Cooper's daughter Heather, he changed his tone. He sent one of his men ahead to check out the archway room and then 


Guard failed his saving throw and took the full force of fancy spikey bear trap and regular toothy beartrap. He died pretty quickly. Viggo leapt out to get the drop on Cuthill but wasn't able to connect. Tenkos tried the same to no effect (after realizing he didn't want to shoot into melee), and everyone spent a round swinging around and not hitting anything. Tenkos and Viggo backed off to give Tenkos room for a sticky fire bomb but Viggo hung back to put himself in between the faceless doctor and the attacking guards, shouting "Light 'em up!" back to his comrade.

It was unfortunately the last thing he would do. Cuthill and his remaining croney rushed up and BOTH hit crits on our poor bounty hunter. 20 damage later and Viggo was no more.

Sidebar: What are the fucking odds here!? Peanut Butter was surprisingly okay about it, opining that it was better than getting murdered by a murderous meat pyscho cow. We chatted after the session about some intriguing next PC ideas and both got pretty pumped about it.

Tenkos switched from sticky molotovs to one of his two remaining blackfyre bombs and blew them up with purple fire... and rolled TWO damage. Luckily he got it to burn for four rounds, so some potential for them to get burned up. Viggo's sliced up body was also engulfed in the burning purple flames.

Tenkos won initiative again (players opted for "roll every round" as opposed to roll once and alternate) and fled out. He ran up the stairs, got the drop on the hungover guard at the top (the one from the jail earlier that evening), and dispatched him in one blow. The remaining guard burned to a crisp before he could even give chase and Cuthill died horrifically from blackfire just steps away from Tenkos.

Barthelm meanwhile was awoken from his early morning sleep by a strong feeling of something being wrong. It broke him out of the dream he was having, full of a terrible sadness and longing to somehow bring his mother back from her early grave. He rushed out of the inn in the same moment that Tenkos came running out of the barn. Seeing Tenkos come out of the barn, Barthelm quickly started shouting about how there was a plague inside and how everyone needed to stay clear!

Tenkos' plague mask and their presence in Ghallia was enough to convince most of the crowd that at least something horrible was going on but Cooper's son James was not deterred. He ran up to Tenkos, cowbell still around his neck, and asked (in his stilted fashion) about his father and sister. Once he realized they were inside still, he bolted into the barn. Tenkos and Barthelm followed him, dashing through the now burning barn into the basement (taking some heat from the flames as they went).

Their primary goal was to destroy the arch. James was fully occupied in grieving over his dead sister, giving Tenkos and Barthelm the opportunity to pull down the arch with a rope they had set up earlier. The magic went out with a bright purple flash as all of the human/cow hybrids and the über cow reverted to their natural forms. Now, instead of disgusting mutants, each stall was occupied by a human woman chained to the wall, and James' cries reached a new height as his sister returned to how she used to be.

The duo took the opportunity to secure their second objective, the chest of silver, and retreat to the library with some bear traps for security. James ignored them both, dragging his sister's corpse back towards the stairs and throwing down the cowbell he had been so protective of previously.

Their position momentarily secure while the fire raged, Tenkos wrote up a letter to Prince Fabian detailing what had happened and Barthelm (I'm guessing) spent some time counting silver pieces in the chest. They also had the time for a couple of hours of proper planning. It was late, so we cut the session there.


Decaying Lands 33: Murder Cow Murder

PCs Present & Played:

Claus Drexol, Magic-User (Vegas)
  Phillip Bachman, linklad
  Lucien Courtet, infantryman
Tenkos, Cleric [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Last time the party plumbed the depths of Cooper Thornhill's secret basement, discovered the incredibly old remnants of some cow related magic, killed Cooper, and narrowly escaped being gored by a horrific bovine beast.

We rejoined the crew at the top of the stairs huddled in Cooper's office. They tossed the office, looking for any kind of valuables to increase their paltry haul and trying to kill some time while the huge beast cow below raged against the stone doorway. They found some outdated financial tallies, noticeably poorer than the one they found below, instructions on how the various types of cheese were made, and little else. They hoped that the cheesemaking notes would be enough to satisfy the request of Cooper's sister-in-law for his secret but they weren't sure.

They hadn't lost anybody yet but they also didn't have much to show for all the trouble they'd gotten into this far. I fully expected them to book it before the town woke up but they surprised me with a decision to go back downstairs and find Thornhill's fortune.

Sidebar: Viggo's player, Peanut Butter, specifically said that he was really curious to find out more about what was going on as a player. The money was a good motivator too but there was a thought that maybe they had been too careful recently and needed to risk more for more reward.

They waited until they didn't hear as much banging from beast cow. They worked out their marching order, keeping Claus and Philip in the back, with Lucien volunteering to take point. "It's what I get paid for!" It's worth noting here that none of those three had yet been in the basement.

They crept down the stairs, stacked and ready to rumble. They were quiet enough that they saw the cowliest of cows down the hall lying on its side. It raged and writhed in pain in the middle of the mutant cow-human stalls, thus far unaware of the party. There was a brief consideration for calming it before the debate shifted to "lure it down the hall" or "approach directly and kill with fire."

Sidenote: While doing Phillip's lisp I think I slipped into a little bit of Butt-head, which Vegas called out. Now Lucien has a tinge of Beavis. All of these things are still Vegas' fault.

"We should not cook and eat this cow no matter how badly we want to." - Claus

[Counterpoint: But what if they did?!]

They were on the verge of firing the first shot when Tenkos remembered prime tactic number one in all situations: bear traps! They laid out the four they had in the doorway, two standard claw traps and two awful spike traps.

Viggo snuck out, grabbed all the papers on the ledge, and got back over the bear traps safe and sound. In the process he saw a very large chest (too heavy for him to move), and what looked like a family portrait of the Thornhills. Included in the painting were Cooper, his wife and son (neither yet stocky and simple), and another young woman who they hadn't seen.

Now fully prepared they taunted the cow and got it to charge them. We did a Save vs Breath to see how it fared against the bear traps and even making the save it got completely wrecked. At least one trap grabbed on and a crossbow from Viggo and fancy pistol shot from Claus dropped it. It crumpled to the ground and skidded to a halt in front of Viggo and Lucien.

Sidebar: Yes, that pistol all the way back from the Bremmlecht Tower, 21 sessions ago, finally got fired. So far 1/1 on kill shots.

Monster murder cow down, they went down the hall to check out the cow stalls again. The creatures (people?) seemed beyond help, so Viggo and Tenkos got to work putting them out of their misery. When Tenkos got to the last stall on his side he noticed that it was not covered in filth like the others and the straw was fresh. The poor soul in this stall was still screaming in fear from the events of the night before Tenkos did what he felt needed to be done. They all agreed that this woman was probably the one that got taken during the night and whose scream woke them up.

Viggo's last stall was the same one where he had fought Cooper during the large battle. The woman in this stall was not chained up and seemed more resigned to her fate than the others. Viggo tried to talk to her and realized that she did understand him. He began to ask about her father (which she confirmed) and what he had gotten into, before Tenkos came and killed her as well, saying that Viggo was only causing her to suffer more.

They brought Claus to the large arch room (he SO wanted to mess with it) and rummaged through Cooper's clothes, turning up a set of keys. One of the keys opened the large chest back in the other room and they were astonished at the incredible amount of silver contained within. Viggo locked the chest back up, pocketed the key, and they brought the chest closer to the stairs.

Sidebar: This was a direct follow on from the tomb they found previously where, after finding a bunch of valuable stuff, they preemptively moved it to their exit point before continuing to explore.

With a little more breathing room they went into the library and Claus' eyes nearly tripled in size. There were so many old books and scrolls! They estimated it would take at least two wagonloads to get it all out (even with the understanding that some value would most likely be lost in the process). Claus looked around for anything obvious and found a lectern with a drawing of some happy farmers wearing James Thornhill's cowbell and conversing with perfect little cows.

While Claus was browsing and everyone else was idly looking about they heard a hacked, strangely moist sounding, moo/squeak coming from the corners. Lapdog-sized rats with sloughing cow features and weird hooves ran out on the attack. The rat/cows were largely ineffective, nibbling a bit on Claus before they were put down.

They didn't have too many moments before they heard a rumble and a roar and swiftly rushed into action, as they realized the berserker cow was trundling back to life. Viggo wanted to rush out and try to slit its throat before it could get going but was too slow and got beat out by Tenkos, who quickly laid another bear trap. The massive beast charged towards him with what would surely have been a near fatal blow against the plague doctor but, fortunately, his bear trap was enough to drop the creature to the ground again.

This time they took no chances and Tenkos butchered it, "autopsy-style", to make sure it would not rise again. They had previously theorized that the milk from this cow may have been the root of what was going on with the cheese and hybrid creatures but curiously they found only muscle and sinew under its flesh. Even the udders were packed with flesh and power, completely dry of milk.

At this point Viggo and Tenkos abandoned Claus in the library (with his hirelings) to explore the one room they hadn't seen yet. Before they even entered they could smell the meat and it was even colder on that side of the basement. Two human-cow hybrids hung from the ceiling with a pile of meat and skins neatly arranged on a table in the corner. They approached the first creature cautiously and so were not caught completely by surprised when she started thrashing about despite her skin having been completely flayed off. They quickly put her down but not before noticing that the meat and hide had begun to regrow. Thoroughly unsettled, they made sure that both of the creatures in the room would not come back to life.

Meanwhile Claus was scanning the large research table in the library trying glean whatever he could about what happened here as quickly as possible. He uncovered a few pages of collected notes, written much more recently than the rest of the papers, that seemed to be puzzling out how to activate the arch. The instructions looked rough and filled with guesswork but the aim seemed to be to activate the arch to create a better cow.

Ended out trying to figure out how they could get this library safely out of here or, alternately, how they could take control of the business without having the whole town (and larger authorities) trying to arrest / hang them.