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Lunchtime Lairs 16c: Merry Old Soul? Or How Two Warriors Learnt to Speak Softly to Avoid the Big Stick A Lunchtime Lairs Jointii

Lunchtime Lairs is a Wednesday lunchtime Jane in Liverpool city centre at the premises of the excellent Justplay games 12-2 every week – come and join us. We are currently playing Blackhack. This scenario was run by James.

After their distractions of the beak squad aerial assault and a mysterious child battery farm the travellers in the charge of Blegrim and Marcellus spotted a massive explosion at a nearby farm. Never having encountered a danger he didn’t want to run towards Blegrim turn the coach from the main highway towards the chaos.

Entering the property the party is trapped by the Guys’ thorny perimeter defences so proceed towards the smoking crater that was formally the farm warehouse, passing small fires in the fields set off by flaming debris.  On nearing the crater the coach disturbs a disagreement between Romula and Moloch regarding the necessity of exploding everything in sight and Romula recognises her old comrade Blegrim she thought was lost for good under the mountain.

There is a brief catch up and introductions between the groups in which Romula and Farqual both develop some distrustful feelings towards Blegrim’s new master Brother Eldritch. Romula over the apparent unholy joining between master and servant and Farqual over Eldritch holding his beloved Beak Squad in bondage. The two groups decide to join forces and proceed to Celebration via the underground route now exposed after the warehouses explosion, however the paying passengers of the coach refuse to risk the unknown. Eldritch instructs Blegrim to reach Celebration and return to fetch him, Mother Mary, Ahajad and the merchant Lorrie by more conventional means.

Immediately below the entrance to the underground is a cellar containing evidence of the Guy’s trade in special beans as crates of the produce are stacked around the walls. The party follows the only tunnel for some time until they reach a three-way fork. As all options lead in the general direction of Celebration the decision is made to split in to three groups. Blegrim and Marcellus take the left hand branch and eventually reach another fork, this time of two options. Investigating their surroundings the warriors notice the tunnel composition has gradually changed from the solid stone seen beneath the Guy farm to an earthy composition. Marcellus notices what appear to be drag marks in the dirt leading down the right hand fork so deciding celebration is more likely to be where there are signs of life they choose the right hand route.

The tunnel narrows until it eventually ends in a heavy set door. The door is unlocked and the warriors enter a long narrow room with another door at the far end. The warriors hear a click as the door behind them locks and a metal framework springs from beneath the dirt and traps Marcellus who narrowly avoids some nasty looking barbs that cover the inside of the trap.

A disembodied voice greets the heroes and the Mole King introduces himself and welcomes them to his domain. A challenge is issued to match wits with the Mole King in a game of riddles to which Blegrim and Marcellus agree, feeling they have limited options at the present.

“What is greater than God,

More evil than the Devil,

The poor have it,

The rich want for it,

If you eat it you will die”

Blegrim quickly activates his psychic link with Brother Eldritch and asks for assistance. The good brother does not welcome this interruption, dinner time approaches and he is dealing with a skittish carpet merchant. With no help offered by their ‘ally’ the warriors beseech the good King to give them three attempts to answer. Pleased by their deference the Mole King grants the request and Blegrim answers in turn love, fire and capitalism.  With their final answer the King reproaches them for placing an economic doctrine above the divine just as a hulking mole/human hybrid with massive fore claws bursts from beneath the floor. The steel trap releases Marcellus and the warriors defend against the burly beast. Fortunately the lone assailant is no match for the seasoned adventurers and is quickly dispatched. The door to the next room opens and the Mole King invites Blegrim and Marcellus to begin round two.

Entering a familiar setup the two adventurers are somewhat prepared for the Mole King’s tricks and manage to dodge the traps each spring. Congratulating them on their physical skills the Monarch of this realm proceeds to test their intellects.

“The more you take the more you leave behind

What am I?”

Blegrim once again asks for some largesse from the Mole King but is rebuffed this time. The Mole King expects his players to provide some challenge for his amusement. The heroes fail to answer satisfactorily and are confronted by four of the King’s subjects. Blegrim handles his quarry masterfully barely sustaining a scratch but Marcellus fares far worse. He gets into an attritional contest with two Mole Men and after dispatching one finds the other seems enraged and enters a berserker state. Marcellus recalls that the naked mole rat exists in large eusocial family groups and wonders if similar family ties have caused this emotional and merciless assault. Marcellus is only narrowly saved by Blegrim’s axe and collapses in a heap as the Mole King invites them to continue with the game.

Knowing he is unlikely to survive another assault Marcellus implores the King to let them rest and heal for which he will be rewarded with an exceptional riddle when they finally meet. Intrigued by the offer of a first rate riddle the Mole King directs the warriors to a side room which had previously gone unnoticed but must have always been there in anticipation of such an eventuality as this. Inside Blegrim and Marcellus are separated by a series of metal bars from a table laid with a feast fit for a king, healing potions and poultices, and two cots against the wall on which they can rest. The Mole King says all this will be theirs if they answer him a riddle.

“What has four wheels and flies?”

Blegrim smiles remembering time spent on surveillance in Thief town during a previous adventure

“The town night-soil wagon!”

The bars retract into the floor and the heroes fall upon the feast like a pair of penguins ravenous for snook. After seeing to their physical needs and feeling they could take on a 12 foot chicken Blegrim and Marcellus head to the next riddle room to test their intellects, once again avoiding the traps of their dangerous but singular minded foe.

“Riddle me this

He who makes it has no need of it

He who buys it has not use for it

He who uses it cannot see or feel it

What am I?”

Again the warriors request that the King show munificence. Eager to hear his playthings’ riddle the King tells them he has been impressed by the martial prowess they have displayed which has so far assured they have no need of the riddles solution. Realisation dawns on Blegrim and Marcellus that so far they have yet to die during the King’s riddling and they shout in unison

“A coffin”

His furry Majesty congratulates the heroes, invites them to the next chamber, and tells them will soon be able to bask in his Riddling glory. Filled with confidence as they continue to the next chamber Blegrim and Marcellus momentarily forget the King’s Modus Operandi and Marcellus is ensnared in a steel trap, a barb puncturing his skin. The Mole King informs Marcellus he is now poisoned and he is sure the added prize of the antidote will concentrate his mind when he considers

“What has a bed but doesn’t sleep

Has a head but doesn’t weep

Has a mouth but never talks

Always runs but never walks?”

The poisoning must have indeed concentrated Marcellus’ mind as he thinks deeply and realises the Mole King has a love of riddles of a particular construction. They have multiple clauses all of which must be satisfied by the answer. Whilst the difficulty of the riddle rises with the number of clauses Marcellus realises this also limits the number of potential solutions. After a little more contemplation he has it!

“A river is the answer”

“Excellent!” exclaims the Mole King “Enter my chamber for the final test.”

The party emerge into a large high ceilinged circular chamber. At the centre is a raised mound of earth, around its base are chests stuffed with gems and gold, and atop sits the Mole King on his throne. He is an imposing beast, clearly the alpha specimen of his race, dressed in ermine robes bulky gold chains and a jewelled crown upon his head. The keen eyed warriors note a collection of bones adorn the regal trappings that signify his station. Around the chamber perimeter are a number of doors suggesting that there are multiple paths through the King’s riddle trap.

Addressing Blegrim and Marcellus the Mole King offers them a choice – answer a final riddle and they can receive their reward or offer the King a riddle he can’t answer and he is at their disposal, for he is a curator of riddles and prizes a new addition to his collection above all else. Fail the test they choose and they will meet their demise at his hands. Deciding any opportunity to avoid combat with the King and his Minions is the best course of action the pair decide not to immediately attack and instead pose a riddle of their own. They tell the King of their choice and he warns them to abide by the rules of riddling as only a true riddle will be accepted – He indicates one of the bones hanging from his chains and advises the heroes this finger belonged to a fool who asked what he had in his pocket. The warriors confer for a moment and Marcellus asks of the King

“I talk but I do not speak my mind

I hear words but I do not listen to thoughts

When I wake all see me

When I sleep all hear me

Many heads are on my shoulders

Many hands are at my feet

The strongest steel cannot break my visage

But the softest whisper can destroy me

The quietest whimper can be heard

What am I?”

The Mole King Beams with delight for this riddle is new to him. He thinks deeply turning the puzzle over in his mind savouring it as if it is a fine wine. Arriving at a solution he likes he addresses Marcellus

“The answer must be truth”

“No great king. The answer is one who deals in un-truths – an actor!”

The great Mole laughs heartily. He has not been bested in a game of riddles for some time and congratulates the winners on their success. He places himself at their disposal, invites them to help themselves to whatever they can carry from his hoard of treasure and provides Marcellus with the antidote to his poison. The warriors ask if the Mole King knows the way to Celebration and if he has seen any sign of their comrades. It becomes clear that the King has captured some of their party in preparation of another game of riddles, two bungling thieves and an oddly dressed chocolate obsessed conjuror, who he agrees to release immediately as a part of the prize.

Two Mole Men are summoned and instructed to guide the treasure laden warriors to their friends and set them on the path to Celebration. The Mole King bids our heroes farewell and thanks them again for a game well played…

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