(Note: This adventure was run in April 2017. In terms of campaign time, this adventure took place contemporaneously with Session 11: The Jackdaws, the Raven, and the Rat).
While Tanin and Bao took on the mission of the Jackdaws in discovering the identity of the Raven, Kulo and Velnius were seeking to make new purchases to aid their adventuring life. Velnius left Xerbo in the care of the potboy at the Weary Traveler. As they walked past a rather derelict tavern near the edge of the wall that separated this poorer quarter from a merchant-lord quarter, the sign dangling outside by one remaining chain identified it as the Golden Tankard, they heard a woman crying for help. She was sitting in the doorway of the tavern, cradling a small boy. Kulo and Velnius moved over to the woman to investigate the commotion. Three others–a female hill dwarf, a human woman, and a female half-orc trying to keep her identity shrouded by the hood of her cloak–also came closer from the busy street to offer assistance. The boy appeared ashen and was delirious. Kulo and Velnius could tell that the boy had a number of scrapes and bruises but were at a loss for what pained him so much. A female hill dwarf who also answered the pleas for help, inspected the boy closer, noticing a puncture wound in his neck. She believed he was poisoned from some bite.
As this was going on, a surly mountain dwarf emerged in the doorway, muttering “If I told them once, I told them a thousand times. Stay out of the cellar!” On seeing the state of the boy, his demeanor quickly changed and he looked about sheepishly. The human woman from the street asked the mountain dwarf what was in the cellar. He equivocated in his answer muttering something about a rat infestation. The woman could tell he was hiding something. A growing crowd was gathering at the doorway, which seemed to agitate the mountain dwarf. The woman pressed him further about the cellar.
The dwarf grew angry, but quickly stifled his temper, and proclaimed to the gathering, “I, Martyn Fenns, proprietor of the Golden Tankard will pay . . .” he paused momentarily grimacing at the thought of having to spend money, “20 gold pieces to the stalwart ban of brave souls willing to kill the rats in my cellar that must have bitten this boy. If any of you be brave enough!” At this last statement, he directed his gaze on the original group that had come to assist.
Kulo and Velnius bristled at the insinuation that they lacked courage. The original group exchanged looks of agreement and introduced themselves to each other. Pabelle, the female hill dwarf, Mara, the human woman, and Lykopsis, the female half-orc, joined Kulo and Velnius in reassuring the woman cradling the boy in the doorway that they would find out what happened to him in the cellar. The woman, a barmaid named Danyella, thanked the intrepid adventurers for helping her son, Theo. In that instant, Theo came-to from his delirium and said, “They took Mallic! They have Mallic!” before collapsing in Danyella’s arms. A look of dismay spread over Danyella’s face and she said, her lips quivering, “Mallic!”
Pabelle gave Danyella a look filled with sympathy and said, “We’ll find Mallic too.” So, the adventurers helped Danyella carry Theo to one of the Inn’s rooms so he could rest. Afterwards, they were led to the cellar to take on Martyn’s claimed rats. Martyn gave the party a lantern to light their way. The cellar was dark, dank, and a foul odor permeated the room, a mixture of rotten foodstuffs, spilled wine, mildew, and the unmistakable smell of vermin dander and droppings. Three barrels sat in the southwest corner and in the middle of the wall sat a large stack of crates and barrels.
The sound of scratching could be heard emanating from the large stack of crates and barrels. The party prepared themselves for some vermin control and approached the crates. Two giant rats emerged from behind the crates and began attacking the party. A third giant rat emerged quietly from behind the barrels in the corner and attacked Kulo.
After some minor injuries, the party put the giant rats to the sword. Not convinced their job was done, the party began searching the room. They examined the two doors in the cellar. One led to the street–the delivery entrance for the inn. The other was an inner door, of substantial iron construction and seemingly out-of-place in the cellar. Pabelle immediately thought out loud, “What is Martyn hiding in there?” Kulo tried picking the lock, but failed.
Bothered by the stacking of the crates and barrels in mostly one location of the cellar, Velnius noticed that there were many scuff marks on the stone floor near the crates, as if they had been moved back and forth over the area many times. Moving some of the crates aside, Velnius shouted to his companions that he’d discovered a tunnel.
Moving more of the crates and barrels to the side, the party inspected what appeared to be a very rough hewn tunnel in the wall. The air felt cool and moist, but also carried the smell of more vermin. Velnius, with his dark vision, could tell the corridor turned to the left, but could see no more. Mara looked into the darkness and asked the group, “Well, shall we see what Martyn’s been up to down here?”
The party edged forward in rank, cautiously eyeballing the recesses for the beady eyes of giant rats, the beams of light from Kulo’s lantern illuminating the sides of the tunnel. Near an opening and depression of the tunnel, their expectations were met with the yellowed fangs of five giant rats that launched forward for the attack. Kulo’s lantern highlighted the melee, but more telling were the sounds: blades slicing the air and meeting mangy hides, the thwump of quarterstaff against skull, and the cries of pain as one of the rodent’s teeth sank into flesh. In a moment of that flickering light, the aftermath was telling–five dead giant rats littered the corridor.
The adventurers continued down the corridor as it snaked to the right. Pabelle suddenly realized Martyn’s intent with the tunnels. She announced to the group, “Martyn was trying to tunnel underneath the wall into the richer quarter!” They continued cautiously forward coming to an opening that branched in three directions, one heading back towards the cellar. Kulo taking notice of this said, “His stonecunning has much to be desired.” The group decided to take the branch that led away from the cellar. It curved to a dead-end, but before the group could backtrack, beady eyes emerged from the darkness as four giant rats attacked!
As the sounds of struggle diminished, the giant rats lay skewered upon the stone floor. At a dead end, the party doubled-back to the branching corridor turning to the unexplored area of the tunnels. This corridor also led to a larger opening that branched in either direction but before the adventurers could gather their bearings, four giant spiders descended on them from the recesses of the ceiling, their fangs dripping poison.
The fight this time was more dire. More than once poison added to the pain of wounds inflicted by the arachnids, but in mere moments the fighting ceased. All of the spiders were dead and the doughty adventurers were tending to wounds. Kulo needed to light a torch. In the midst of battle he dropped the lantern provided by Martyn in order to unsheathe his rapier and the lantern shattered.
Peering down the corridor leading away from the direction of the cellar, Velnius could see a chamber covered in spiderwebs. The party approached cautiously, cutting through the webs in order to reach the main body of the chamber. No spiders emerged to attack , but the group noticed three forms hanging in the webs. Cutting the first down revealed the remains of a shabbily-dressed man, clearly one of Cyr’s destitute denizens. On the ground near his body was a crudely constructed club, seemingly made from a table leg. Searching his body, the party found a potion of healing, a vial of what appeared to be antivenom, and a glass bottle of oil for a lantern. A further search of the room turned up a lantern, still in good working order. The second cocoon contained a desiccated giant rat. The third cocoon held a boy, still alive, who came-to momentarily as they were cutting him from the webs.
“Theo? Where’s Theo,” he asked nervously.
Pabelle responded, “Theo is upstairs being looked after. Do you know how many spiders there are down here?”
Mallic shook his head, but said with a shudder, “No, I don’t know how many, but there is a really big one, bigger than all the rest. It inspected me before feeding on the giant rat.”
Looking him over, it appeared that while bruised, Mallic was not poisoned.
The adventuring party moved down the corridor from whence they came in the direction back towards the cellar. They noticed one last branching corridor they had yet to explore. Velnius and Kulo moved up to explore this corridor, while Mara, Lykopsis, Pabelle, and Mallic waited within earshot.
As they rounded a bend, Kulo noticed a cave-in that led to a finished room. “The room with the iron door,” Kulo thought. Meanwhile, Velnius peered down the final tunnel and noticed spiderwebs covering the walls, floor, and ceiling. Velnius joined Kulo in the room, accessible through the cave-in. Shelves lined the walls holding glass bottles. Kulo held one of the bottles up to the light of his torch. Inside he could see an amber liquid and at the bottom of the bottle, a dead spider. He stashed the bottle in his pack and the two of them returned to the group and told them of their find. Mara recognized the contents of the bottle as spider-wine, a particularly potent alcohol considered illegal in most civilized lands including Cyr. They returned to the room via the cave-in and opened the iron door from the inside ready to reunite Mallic with his mom and brother, heal Theo from the poison coursing through his veins with the antivenom, and to confront Martyn about his contraband.
The party first found Danyella and Theo in an upstairs room. Danyella was overcome with joy at seeing Mallic alive and well. Pabelle cradled Theo in her arms, rousing him from his stupor, and then giving him the antivenom to drink. She looked at Danyella and said, “This should heal him.” Danyella smiled with tears falling from her eyes. They left the family alone, suggesting to Danyella and Mallic to let Theo rest to give the antivenom some time to work.
Finding Martyn behind the bar counter rubbing a dirty mug with a greasy rag in some half-hearted attempt at cleaning, the party confronted him about his exploits below the Golden Tankard. He appeared surly and defiant at the claims the group was leveling at him, bristling at the accusation that he would try to tunnel into the nearby merchant-lord district. Instead he suggested he had widened a rat tunnel that led to his cellar in order to put a stop to his rat infestation and then questioned whether the party had even done anything about the giant rats. He asked aloud whether they even deserved the 20 gold pieces he had promised them.
Kulo became incensed, pulled out the bottle of spider-wine, and waved it in front of Martyn’s face. “We know about this!” he said. Martyn’s eyes grew wide and he stammered, finally regaining his composure and asking Kulo to keep his voice down as he surveyed the two drunks staring into their mugs in the common room of the Golden Tankard. Martyn then became compliant, dropping his sullen demeanor. He admitted to trying to tunnel to into the wealthier quarter, but was cursed by his stone-ignorance, part of what led him to leave his dwarven clan years ago to settle among the humans of Cyr. When that failed he concocted a plan to sell the illicit spider-wine, receiving a shipment of spiders from smugglers who claimed they had been stolen from a drow lair. But his poor tunneling collapsed the back wall of his room where he stored the spiders and the wine. The spiders that were still alive, escaped their cage into his tunnels. He figured the spiders could help end his rat infestation. After a few months, he hired a local drunk who owed him an outstanding debt to go into the tunnels and kill the spiders.
Pabelle was incredulous, “And you didn’t care whether Danyella’s boys would be harmed by these spiders?”
Martyn shrugged, “I figured as long as I was stern with them about staying out of the cellar, keeping the iron door closed and locked, and blocking the main tunnel entrance everything would be fine.”
Kulo grew irritated again. He told Martyn that besides the 20 gold pieces he offered them, he was now going to pay them an additional 2 gold pieces for every rat and every spider carcass they brought him. Martyn frowned and said he didn’t have it even if he was willing to pay the extortion fee.
Kulo slammed his fist on the bar counter and said, “Fine, we’ll end your spider and rat problem–there is one big spider left. But we want 50% stake in the Golden Tankard.”
Martyn grumbled and clenched his fists. Kulo continued, “And you’re going to pay Danyella double what you’re paying her now.”
Martyn tried to dissuade them from this venture, pointing out that the Golden Tankard hadn’t operated as an inn for some time because it had a leaky roof. Only two of the upstairs rooms were habitable and they were for him and Danyella and her boys. Kulo said the party would get the roof repaired. Martyn, realizing he had no way out, reluctantly agreed.
Kulo vaulted the bar counter, pulled a dagger from his belt and poked it into Martyn’s belly. “And your days of wild schemes like the tunnels and spider-wine are over, you understand!”
Martyn gulped and nodded deferentially, a dagger in the gut a clear attitude adjustment.
The party prepared themselves for their final fight, healing themselves with goodberries and bolstering each other’s courage. They returned to the tunnels and the final corridor, Kulo’s lantern lighting the way. As they approached the final chamber, they cautiously made their way through the webs to avoid being entrapped. But their movements gave away their approach and a giant spider emerged along the ceiling of the chamber.
As the party hacked and fought the foul beast, a swarm of newly hatched spiders crawled along the floor before enveloping Lykopsis. Lykopsis managed to crush the last of the spider swarm just as the rest of the party slayed the giant spider. The party searched the lair in case anything of value had been hoarded, but all they found were the bones of giant rats. Lykopsis noticed something glinting from the giant spider’s abdomen. Looking more closely, the giant spider queen had what appeared to be a gem growing in her abdomen. Lykopsis pried it out and placed it in her backpack.
Returning to the Golden Tankard, the party relaxed and had a mug of poor-quality ale or some cheap wine. Although it wasn’t much, the adventurers felt good about this being their place. The Weary Traveler had been good to them, but they clearly had enemies in the city and a less conspicuous home base would be good.
Kulo spoke with Danyella about getting an estimate on the roof repairs, giving her 30 gold pieces for the undertaking and a down-payment. He also suggested she see if she could get Mallic an apprenticeship with a local roofer. Martyn overheard this and told Kulo that Mallic is needed for odd jobs around the Golden Tankard, like bringing in fire wood or washing dishes. Kulo responded that it would be better for Mallic to have his own income so that he could help Danyella pay the rent on the room they occupy upstairs. Besides, Theo was now old enough to take over many of these tasks. Martyn, still not used to his co-ownership in the Golden Tankard, reluctantly deferred.
Pabelle, Lykopsis, and Mara advanced to 2nd level.
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Adventure based on a module from Nord Games: Creaking in the Dark
Barrels and Crates: Fat Dragon E-Z Dungeon Deluxe Edition
Spider Webs: Fat Dragon Depths of the Drow
Giant Rat Metal Minis: Ral Partha/Iron Wind Metals Giant Rat
Original Art of the Spider Queen: Jody Monochrome