The Freeport Chronicles

Running the Gauntlet

Welcome to the jungle

Summary

  • several members of the Bloody Vengeance’s crew is entered into the gladiatorial competitions at the Arena
  • the orcs encounter Rooster in the pit, his presence is tolerated
  • the crew must run the gauntlet to fight in the central pit
  • with Rooster’s help, traps are navigated and other combatants defeated
  • Ferp drowns in a pool of oily liquid
  • a gelatinous cube yields a corpse with a key that opens the way to the central pit

Details

The opportunity to leave the ship and kill things, legally, is too much for the orc crew to pass up. Games are played, competitions had, and the worst of the worst of the crew are selected to represent the Bloody Vengeance at the arena.

The noon day sun blazing, the orcs register to fight at the Arena and are escorted into a lower hold where officials prepare them for the competition. There are several ways to “win”; the combatants must run the gauntlet to a center ring which will be contested from several directions. Individual performance will be ranked by officials and used to qualify for the next round of fighting. Otherwise, a combatant can win by taking hold, uncontested, of a hammer placed on a raised dais in the central gladiatorial pit. The orcs are then led topside – a near sold-out crowd screams, drowning out all sound with the exception of a ring master who can be heard from time-to-time, his voice magically amplified. The crowd is a mishmash of society, with the general population seated between raised platforms and box seats where nobles reside in opulence.

A gunslinger with a southern drawl addresses the orcs, placing them from the Bloody Vengeance. He introduces himself as Rooster Pumpernick. Seems he had contracted their former captain, Scarbelly, to procure a staff. The orcs are unsure of the gunslinger. Seeing their confusion, the gunslinger advises that he can help the crew run the gauntlet if they assist him in finding the staff. Before they can respond, the portcullis is raised and the crowd cheers.

The combatants stream out of the pit to enter the gauntlet. The gunslinger stands in front of the orcs, “Hold it, hold it. Patience will help you survive. Let the eager ones locate the traps for you.” Several of their fellow combatants take arrows from the crowd. Another is taken down by a cleverly hidden trap. “While I have your attention, I would like to tell you about a bounty I am chasing, a swindling thief named Crick McGillicuddy. I am open to sharing the bounty if you would hear more…

Patience running thin, the orcs stream out of the pit. Not wanting the nobles to have all the fun, they decide to focus on the other combatants as they navigate the gauntlet. Herder and Ferp are the first to strike and manage to take down several thugs. Strangles grapples another, Herder beheads the struggling warrior as he passes. The crowd begins to chant the cleric’s name.

The initial corridor free and clear, the companions round the corner and fall prey to a pit trap. Strangles manages to catch himself on a ledge but Herder falls to the spikes below. Magus Mork drops a rope to assist the cleric from the pit and the orcs gain the opposite side. Herder decides to hang out by the edge of the pit in hopes of using his pike to catch other combatants unawares as they attempt to jump across.

Rounding a second corner reveals several items of note. The corridor opens up, with the inner wall featuring a large waterway, the liquid giving off a viscous appearance. A swarm of insects sits atop the stagnant liquid. There are two statues on the opposite side, both look to be representations of former gladiatorial participants. The statues are decorated with studded gems glinting in the noon day sun. Lastly, a gelatinous cube is present, threatening all that wish to continue further.

Rooster rounds the wall and unloads both of his pistols into the gelatinous cube. Magus Mork steps close and unleashes a shocking grasp. The cube doesn’t flinch and begins to move ominously towards the gunslinger. Ferp and Strangles, wanting nothing to do with the gelatinous creature, and race around it to investigate the statues. The warrior, Ferp, is there first and pokes one with his axe. Nothing happens. Strangles attempts to follow – the other statue shoots out suddenly and attempts to hook the orc. Strangles manages to acrobatically elude the statue, which returns to its original position. It is noted that the statues move along concealed tracks in the sand that lead directly into the foul smelling liquid pool.

At this time, more combatants are released into the gauntlet. A burly warrior and gnome sprint for the pit, while a celestial creature unfurls its wings and flies over the wall. The gnome reaches the pit first and pulls up short, understanding that Herder is there to stymie those that try to cross the pit. The gnome attempts to pull out a bow and shoot the cleric, but Herder anticipates and steps forward with his pike, skewering the hapless gnome. Performing for the crowd, the cleric levers the gnome over the pit to fall awkwardly on the spikes below. Cheers erupt from the stands.

The bearish warrior has little time to alter its movement as it jumps mightily across the pit and it takes the cleric’s back-swing full in the chest. The girth of the bear allows it to complete its jump, and the bear engages Herder in a deadly grapple upon landing. Hearing the screams of his companions, Strangles doubles back to assist in the melee. Seeing the cleric being slowly choked into unconsciousness, Strangles grapples with the bear who is constricting the cleric. The grappling duel is a war of attrition. Strangles holds his death grip on the bear until the large warrior succumbs. Herder is able to escape the unconscious bear’s grip, returning air to his burning lungs.

The celestial creature arrives in the middle of the corridor and attacks Rooster from behind. The gunslinger and Magus Mork abandon their efforts with the cube to focus on the winged angel. Rooster unleashes a double salvo and Mork chops with his sword. Gargle Rat joins the fray as well. Their concentrated efforts quickly overcome the martial prowess of the angel.

While this occurs, Ferp attacks the second statue, venting his frustration. His footwork crosses the hidden track and the statue engages, hooking the hapless orc and depositing him into the viscous liquid. A quick taste reveals that it is not water, but a pool of oil. Ferp, heavily armored, sinks to the bottom. Movement from the corner, he is not alone. A hideous humanoid creature with a horse-like face and transparent skin circles the orc. The creature speaks in Ferp’s mind, magically pleading with him to stay awhile as it is lonely down. Ferp empathizes with the creature and decides that it would be nice to stay. He opens his mouth and willingly allows the oily substance into his lungs.

Topside, the insect swarm has been irritated by the orc’s entry into the pool. Magus Mork identifies the pool as oil and sends a shocking grasp through the liquid. The spell sparks the oil, which erupts into flames, the swarm instantly disintegrates in the fire. Rooster steps close to the flames, “Oh my. Your companion seems to be in a pickle. Well do I have a proposition for you. You see, I have a dear loved one, my sister, who is possessed by a demonic presence, a black goat to be exact. I seem to be a little short on the money necessary to procure the reagents to cure her of this affliction. If you would agree to team up with me – to win this arena competition, complete the bounty I discussed earlier, or help me obtain that staff – I have the ability to extinguish the flames forthwith and rescue him. Agreed?” The orcs continue on with their business.

The shock from Mork’s spell jolts Ferp from his magical stupor and knocks the keltie unconscious. Near death, Ferp swims with all might. The glow from the flames is beautiful from under the oil, beckoning the orc forward. The heat intensifying, Ferp makes one last push. And runs out of air just before he breaches the surface. Armour sizzling from the heat, Ferp slowly floats to the bottom to spend eternity with his good friend the keltie.

Returning their attention to the gelatinous cube, Rooster loads several special bullets from his bandolier and fires them into the cube. He turns away as the bullets produce an explosion that rips apart the cube, gelatinous matter splattering across the arenas’ sand. The gunslinger blows at the smoking tips of his guns, to the crowd’s delight, before holstering the weapons.

After the smoke clears, the orcs comb through the gelatinous remains to find two weapons of note, a dagger that glows blue in orcish hands and a nasty sickle, as well as a half digested body. Searching the decomposed body reveals a key that shimmers with a strange energy.

Continuing down the corridor, Gargle Rat stops the orcs short of a magical barrier that only he can see. The wall radiates a shimmering energy and extends across the corridor, cutting off access. Gargle Rat picks up a pebble from the ground and throws it at the wall. The pebble simply freezes in mid-air and falls to the ground. He continues to investigate the wall and locates a concealed keyhole. The key from the decomposed corpse fits perfectly and the barrier ceases to exist. The orcs continue on, readying themselves for whatever the Arena will throw at them next.

—> Read orc interlude chapter 2

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