|The Saga of Avec-garl
||[Jul. 1st, 2016|07:48 pm]
The Saga of Avec-garl
This is one of my favorite gaming stories. I have told perhaps two or three people ever. This is the first time I've shared it with a general audience.
Back in the late 80's, I ran a D&D game in Stockton. It lasted about three years total, full of epic battles, great triumphs, loss, redemption, saving the world a couple of times. The usual. It ended with all the surviving characters grown powerful and retiring from the adventuring life, going their separate ways. Eventually, they all became NPCs in my ongoing world with other groups.
Those who've played in my games know the names: Brightfist the Wise, high priest of Pelor in Pendwy. Engel the Laughing, in his secret lair near the town of Tenn, bordering three kingdoms and allied with none. King Ta'an, aka Tannis the Half-Elf, ruling the united Southlands. Sir Tuck, the dimension-hopping brewmeister and spylord to King Ta'an.
But there's one name nobody knows.
Avec-garl started life as a commoner in the town of Grimbold, across the River Desarin from where Crossroads now sits. Several different groups have wandered through its ruins. None of them have looked into its history, though the elders in Crossroads remember, and could tell them about the Great Fire and the so-called "Heroes" of the Orc War. But even they don't know Avec-garl's story.
I don't even remember what the altercation was originally. But the adventuring troupe had stayed there a couple of days after some fight or another, resting, training, studying, each as their wont. And Tuck (long before taking the honorific "Sir" for himself) may have started it. Or perhaps it was the wizard, who was just as bad. But as adventuring groups are bound to do occasionally they had to flee, shortly ahead of a surprisingly large number of guards. Even so, it probably wouldn't have been an issue if they'd fled into the nearby forest rather, than, say, through half the town to the dock, where they stole a boat belonging to an emissary of the current king, and even then, that might have been the end of the story had not the wizard, in his eagerness to try out the new spell he had just learned, set fire to the dock to slow down the pursuit.
With the wind, and a bit of bad luck, the fire spread. Many guards perished. A couple - two, exactly - survived. They crawled back onto shore from the water they'd jumped into to escape. One drew a crossbow and loaded a bolt. Tannis was faster and dropped him with a single arrow. "Garl!" they heard his friend cry in anguish as they sailed away. They did not notice him standing on the shore, sword in hand, watching until they had disappeared into the distance. Watching, silently, as his town burned and everything he knew was lost. Watching, and plotting his revenge.
It was months later, that Avec-garl found them again. They were in another Inn in another town, seeking adventure and ignoring the rumors of orcs gathering in the mountains. His plan was solid, but, sadly, doomed to failure. By chance, the first of the hired assassins struck the room with the halfling, Tuck the Brewmeister, who quickly dispatched them and alerted the others. The adventurers never found out why hired assassins attacked them in the middle of the night in what should have been a safe enough inn, or why someone had set a trap of burning oil on the stairway they ran down in pursuit or why the band of mercenaries who had cleared out the common room started their attack lobbing flasks of burning oil at them. It was an encounter. They defeated it. In the end, the mercenaries were all slain, or dying, the inn was on fire, and it was just another town that they fled before the authorities could get organized enough to stop them.
They never returned to that town, so they never knew that one man, (who had spent months gathering a small fortunte and spent it all on hiring mercenaries and assassins), was rescued from the burning inn by the townspeople.
The seasons turned, and in the great city of Pendwy, where our heroes had gone in search of more arcane power while ignoring the rumors or the orc clans uniting in the mountains and raiding nearby towns, they never did find out who had framed them for the murder of a prominent guild leader. It was easier to fight their way past the city guards and flee the city than to stay and try to sort the whole thing out, or even deal with the stranger who was trying so hard to steal secrets from the great guild of mages.
And after fighting Illithid in the Underdark, and translating their notes, they ignored the part where one of their test subjects, the only volunteer for the dangerous process that would give mortal men limited sets of the Illithid's psychic powers, had escaped the underground labs, slaying his guards. They instead returned to the surface world and sold the notes to a mage who had an interest in such things, taking his money and ignoring his request they look into a large horde of orcs, comprised of many clans, who had taken over a considerable part of the northern kingdom.
When they accidentally released a demon, it fled to the north. They never pursued it and never learned of the evil pact it made with a man obsessed with gaining power for his vengeance. By then, they were finally busy fighting Orcs in the south.
And they were distracted on their way to the Battle of Pendwy or else they might have met the man who led the flight of dragons that burned the town, who had cast both arcane and divine spells during the battle, and had spent so much time and effort trying to lure them there. They arrived to see the burning ruins and hear the story about the end of the Crimson Knights and the Death of the Last of the Dragons.
But they couldn't keep missing him forever. Eventually, the confrontation was inevitable. And high in the mountains, at the top of a lonely tower, after fighting their way past orcs and demons and unnameable abominations they finally confronted the man who they had been told carried the mystical key to the undergound lair of the enemy they wanted to engage. He had prepared his traps, he had gathered his minions, he had mastered the arts arcane and divine and psionic. They had climbed up a really long staircase. And there, at the very top of the world, their halfling companion, Sir Tuck the Brewer, climbed up the side of the tower, used his orb of enchantment breaking to get past the wards, and stabbed Avec-garl in the back. It was a lucky blow, one in a million (or at least one in 400), but even then it may not have killed him had he not fallen off the tower and to his death on the rocks below.
"Well, crap," Tannis said, "Now we have to climb all the way back down to get the key."
And the players never knew. For the rest of the evening, they referred to him as the Keymaster and made Ghostbusters jokes, and if they ever thought about him after that, they never mentioned it to me.