Perusing the archives of Erelhei Cinlu today, I have discovered that the reports on the death of one of my online campaigns have been greatly exaggerated! So as to share these broken fragments with the wider readership, I have elected to publish them here. They will not always make perfect sense, mind you—there are certainly pieces missing from the puzzle. But with a bit of imagination, one should be able to trace the tale of these doomed underground intruders. So begins...
RETURN TO CASTLE FROBOZZ, CHAPTER I
And so our story begins with the two dusty pilgrims, Pavel and Winfred, huddled in the dark corner of the Outs Inn of Greyhawk, early one autumn morning. Faces beset with dark looks, the wayfarers glower down into their cold, greasy gruel. They are alone in the tavern this morning - a silent ceasefire exists between them which has even scared off the normally jovial Hrothgar from his perennial post at the bar.
Oh what cruel fate! Only a couple days ago, the travelers were finishing the last leg of what had been a lovely pilgrimage. Certainly the ancient ruins had their distinctive allure, and all had looked forward keenly to seeing the fabled walls of Greyhawk - rumored to be the oldest settlement in the Known World, and once the high seat of the famed Emperor Ygg Son-of-Arne. But it was the company these two grim wanderers now mourned; had it only been two days since seeing that bright gem, Princess Velouria?
Certainly the motley group of pilgrims found it unconventional to be accompanied by such royalty at first, but soon the young and beautiful princess had won each and every traveller's heart with her peerless melodious singing and other winsome affections. By the end of the journey, the troupe had already begun to set upon each other with challenges and dares to prove themselves before her lashful eyes.
But tragedy struck that final night, just shy of the gates of Greyhawk, when a mysterious figure attacked the caravan. Clad all in black, the transgressor knight, who went only by the moniker "The Dark Lord", defeated the tourists one by one, until only he remained standing. Sweeping up the princess from the bed of daffodils she had daintily feinted into, the Dark Lord gave the woe smitten party one more severe reproach before vanishing in a puff of smoke.
Two days later, all that remained of the band now sat mutely in this bar; the hours of quarreling and lamenting long since passed. Of the other companions, some had gone mad with distress and dispersed in random directions, while still others had vowed to rescue the fair maiden and headed up the thick forested mountain towards the mysterious fog-decked Castle Frobozz, which the Dark Lord had indicated was his home. Of this last group, none had returned and, by all legends of the Castle, no return should be expected either.
Perhaps all is lost, and there is nothing left but to return home in shame. Surely, the chance for adventure, reward and glory is behind you now, and even worse - a chance at the fair damsel's hand! But what is this note here, stamped in a strange seal, that flutters lightly on the table? Was that here when you came down this morning? Has it always been here?
THE OUTS INN
Of all the establishments in Greyhawk, the Outs Inn is notable for achieving the most impressive amount of grim and dreck. Normally deserted, this dilapidated watering hole would be considered abandoned if not for the stalwart presence of its owner, Hrothgar the Dwarf. Despite the bleak setting, the curious creature is surprisingly friendly and outgoing, and happily welcomes you to "the finest" (and, indeed, only) "tavern outside the city walls!"
Exits are UP or OUT.
There is a NOTE here, there is a HROTHGAR here.
PAVEL stops a moment from eating his slop. He notices the note. He notices WINFRED noticing the note. He tries to grab it first.
WINFRED groggily rubs his eyes, trying to shake the effects of the previous night's ales. He notices a note on the table and wonders if perhaps it was misplaced and there would be a reward for its delivery. He looks to his coin purse, noting he has only four gold remaining. In the moment of distraction PAVEL grabs the note.
Admiring the strange seal once more, PAVEL notices the stylistic "A", embossed in the shape of a warped star with a flaming pillar in the middle. Breaking open the parchment causes the seal to crumble into several pieces. Within is a short poem followed by a crudely drawn map:
"The fog recedes,
the true treasure of the dungeon,
it is yet to be won,
to it a winding path leads…"
The map roughly shows an ascent up the eastern side of the mountain, upon which sits the gloomy Castle Frobozz from which none return. The path stops halfway up the mountain at a circular symbol.
WINFRED looks up at the sound of the seal on the note being broken. “Friend Pavel,” he begins, craning his neck to get a look at the note, “ the unfortunate events that have transpired on this pilgrimage have clearly worn on us both. Let us start our friendship anew with the search for... whatever it is that note you have here is about. Two honorable men such as ourselves traveling together shall surely overcome challenges that one alone could not.”
PAVEL gazes across the horizon of the letter at his friend. It's a cold stare. He glances down at the letter, "You better take a look at this then," he says tossing the letter across the table. Scowling, he heaves some slop into his mouth and continues with his breakfast.
WINFRED looks the note over. "Strange," he mutters. "Hrothgar, did you by chance see who left this note here?"
Having failed at being inconspicuous, the wrinkly dwarf looks up from his work of wiping down a single swath of the otherwise grimy bar.
"Nae, boppins!" he replies, before hopping down from his stool. You trace the peak of his bent felt cap bobbing behind the bar until the puppet finally appears around the side. He pads up to the table, bells clinking on his soft shoes, draws close and palms the note in his stubby fingers. You can't help but notice that the foul homunculi stinks worse than the docks on Yob's Day, a festival dedicated to the rotten fish-god worshipped by the inbred peasants of this area.
Pulling out a pair of (likely pilfered) spectacles, HROTHGAR pretends to read meaningfully for a moment, before his beady eyes settle on the crudely drawn map and grow wide with fear.
"Well ta first part is a recipe, methinks. Yep, butter'd chicken." it says, licking its slimy lips. "But ta second part, that'd be a map of the Castle Frobz. No'uns ever come back from that fog I tell you! It eats men alive! If only for a chance at the castle gates, the treasures indwelled are said to be beyond imagination!"
The scurrilous tramp goes on to do what dwarves perhaps do best, and tells a mesmerizing tale of spectacular riches and wealth that would make a sultan swoon; seas of golden coin, ruby encrusted pillars, the finest jewelry and ornaments and priceless works of art abound. Half the morning must have passed before you snap out of the charm (coins still dancing in your mind); the drizzly weather outside gives no indication, but you can judge the lapse by your gruel, which has separated into thin tinny water with fatty solids that float near the top. Your stomach grumbles in protest, as the loathsome wretch concludes "But this I've never seen, a passage up the eastern slope? B'ware young boppins, those hills are rumored to be full of nasty warrens."
Recalling your childhood lessons that dwarves indeed live under mounds of dirt, you decide to take such a warning with some thoughtfulness.
With the conclusion of the dwarf's tale WINFRED collects his things. "Perhaps it is time we moved on Pavel," he whispers in a hushed voice, "I doubt this dwarf will be of any help."
WINFRED goes OUT and takes a look around.
PAVEL nods, "I will be needing some supplies I suppose. We may also want to recruit a peasant to carry our goods and absorb any arrows destined for our chests." He gets up from his table, leaving a few coppers on the table and follows WINFRED OUT.
As the PAVEL exits, HROTHGAR pads up to him and stuffs a small, leather bag into his hands. "If ye are thinkin' of going to Frobz, take this, I beg ye! Me mutter told me to use it if I ever came across a deep creature; but dun'nae use it on anything else! Only the deep ones!" Opening the pouch reveals a handful of granola.
PAVEL appreciates the gesture and nods to HROTHGAR on his way out.
Waiting until PAVEL and WINFRED have left, SCUNTHORPE approaches HROTHGAR, and says "A couple more pints for me and my friend," pointing to SWALKHI in the corner. "You've got a fine establishment here."
SWALKHI walks up to HROTHGAR and SCUNTHORPE. "Aye, sir -- good to see a brother dwarf with his own establishment in such a far flung land. Are there more of our folk hereab
The road here is well worked by wagon wheel and foot traffic alike, so that deep ruts have formed in the slop and filled with the morning's rain. This is western road that leads from Greyhawk out to the lands of Westmark. Before you stands the shabby Outs Inn, run down from years of neglect. To your EAST lies the Western Gate of Greyhawk. To the NORTHWEST, the road climbs up into the thick pine forests and disappears around bends in the brambles.
Exits are IN, EAST or NORTHWEST.
There is a SIGN here, there is a GROUP of MERCENARIES here, there is a CONDOTTIERE here.
PAVEL nods to the MERCENARIES, tipping his hat to them as he approaches.
"Allo guv'nah!" the broad mustachioed CONDOTTIERE says, stepping forward and pumping PAVEL's hand mercilessly. "My Landsers are the best in the business! We've just come arrived with the caravans from Westmark. The pikes of the Black Band are the sharpest in the Known World, and for a modest fee they can shore up your battle lines!"
WINFRED reads the sign.
The sign reads: "EAST - CITY of GREYHAWK, NORTHWEST - WESTMARK ROAD and OLD CASTLE TRACK"
WINFRED turns from the sign and approaches the MERCENARIES as well. "So my good man, how much is it to hire one of your pikes?"
"Merely 5 coin a delve or per week, whichever comes first! Payable in full ahead of time to my persons, of course," replies the CONDOTTIERE.
"Are they hardy men for that price?" asks PAVEL. "We're going to the castle Frobozz. We don't want no turn-coats adventuring with us."
"These lads are Westmarks finest!" cries the CONDOTTIERE, "I haven't heard of this Castle Frobozz, but I can attest no member of the Black Band has ever turned heel while their charismatic captain still stands. Treat them well, pay me promptly, and you can be assured of their service."
WINFRED turns to talk to PAVEL out of earshot of the mercenaries. "I am willing to hire one of them, or rather I would be if I weren't so short on gold at the moment," he says looking slightly embarrassed. "I you could lend me a gold coin I will gladly repay it at the first opportunity. If there's even a fraction of the treasure HROTHGAR claims we'll need help to carry it all."
PAVEL waves off WINFRED's concerns. "It is of no consequence, friend. I was planning on hiring two or three. Three would leave me tight to purchase rations for the journey."
"Hire however many you feel would work best, PAVEL. You will be reimbursed for your trouble from the treasure." WINFRED purchases 4 days rations.
PAVEL returns to the CONDOTTIERE and requests the services of three mercenaries, and is granted the service of young AUGUST, ZOTT and EVANDER. PAVEL purchases 10 days worth of dried trail rations for the road. "I believe we have what we need. Unless there is anything else that you require, WINFRED, I suggest we make haste."
WINFRED finishes his purchases. "I'm ready when you are."
PAVEL nods and leaves NORTHWEST with WINFRED.
The thick pine trees converge on the Westmark Road here, veiling the way in an eery silence and gloom. Down the hill to the EAST, the rotting patched roof of the Outs Inn is visible; a thin silvery line of smoke drifting lazily from its badly leaning brick chimney. Beyond that, the grand City of Greyhawk unfolds on the narrow escarpment overlooking the wind licked Great Sea.
To the WEST, the road continues deeper through the forested hills to the sundry counties of Westmark. To the NORTH, the crumbling remnants of a decrepit bridgehead over a small stream mark the beginnings of the Old Castle Track which leads to the haunted Castle Frobozz. A menacing fog looms that way. To the NORTHEAST, a barely noticeable deer path leeds across the stream and around the eastern face of the mountainside.
Exits are NORTH, NORTHEAST, EAST and WEST.
PAVEL remembers the map and points out the deer path. "I believe that is the direction we want to go."
WINFRED also remembers the map. "Yes, I do believe you are correct, PAVEL."
PAVEL heads towards the deer path, leaving NORTHEAST.
The forested mountainside tumbles down into a sheer precipice here, dropping hundreds of feet into a distant estuary below. An old deer trail clings tenuously to the fringe of the rocky crag, leading SOUTHWEST down the face of the mountain or ascending WEST directly up the heavily forested slope. From this vantage point, the eastern ends of the Known World open up before you, revealing distant squalls out at sea and the wooded wilderness of the mountainous Eastmark seaboard.
Exits are SOUTHWEST or WEST.
PAVEL goes WEST.
A small grotto cuts into the mountainside here; a low entrance leading down into the darkness of the earth. Before the portal, a small dragon is curled up on a pile of dirt, leaves and bones. The glint of tarnished golden treasures gleam dimly from the refuse. There is an air of melancholy here. An old deer path leads EAST down the mountainside. To all sides, the menacing fog looms, yet strangely does not reach the trail or cavern opening.
Exits are IN or EAST.
There is a DRAGON here, there is a TREASURE HOARD here, there is a DONIVAN here.
PAVEL halts and raises his fist above his head, signaling everyone to be silent. He waves over WINFRED and points to the DRAGON. Carefully, PAVEL whispers into WINFRED's ear, "Know ye much about dragons, friend? This looks to be the route by which the map wishes us to enter the castle."
WINFRED nods. "Lets try to get by as silently as possible."
Approaching the dragon reveals that the wyrm is apparently midst forty winks, and slumbers peacefully on its precious take. It is a lissome creature, with slender features covered in brilliant emerald scales, perhaps the weight of a horse and some half dozen paces long from nose to tail's tip.
DONIVAN peers out from the underbrush at the two adventurers he has been following since he overheard them talking of treasure while hiring mercenaries near the city gates.
[Assuming Pavel and Winfred continue past the dragon down into the earth, follow below. Otherwise, continue here as normal.]
It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.
There is a PAVEL and a WINFRED here.
PAVEL takes out a torch and his flint and steel from his back-back. He lights the torch, being mindful to keep an eye over his shoulder towards the direction of the dragon.
To Be Continued...