The Merchant's Everfull Cloth Bag - Oddities for your Campaign
Copyright by C.L. Yona, 1999
The mood in the nameless inn was sullen, fearful. It was only mid-afternoon, and the sun was still shining brightly outside, yet the stream of villagers entering the tavern was steady. Conversation buzzed, but it was muted, devoid of laughter. What passed as the town's militia milled around outside, checking the coverings over the windows, the sturdiness of the doors. They were decent warriors, not farm boys waving rusty blades, but they were overmatched by their foe, a foe due with the impending darkness. A rider had been sent north, to the keep, to seek help, but the lord lived several days away, even on a swift horse. The horse that had been sent was not of the swift variety. And while there was hope, there was no guarantee that any help would be sent to this tiny hamlet on the outer reaches of the lord's domain, at the edge of the Nor'cress Swamp. The people of Nor'cress knew that their harvest of the swamp mushroom known as Fetblossom put money in their lord's pocket as well as in their own, a fact they went to great lengths to conceal. No need to have brigands and other roving scum aware that Nor'cress was a surprisingly wealthy town. But while they had heard that their lord was a good and just man, the people knew that they were replaceable. With training, anyone could be taught how and where to harvest Fetblossom.
As the shadows grew longer and deepened, the rest of the population crowded into the inn, most clutching their harvesting tools like weapons. The enemy had not managed to breach the stout stone walls on the tavern yet, but each night the doors creaked and cracked more, the shutters groaned louder.
It was one of the guards, Shelway, who heard the clattering first. There was perhaps an hour of daylight left, and he and Culliane had been staring uneasily towards the swamp when he spun and looked up the northern road. Surely it was far too early to hope for news from the lord. Jevalin had left only 3 nights ago, even with the best of luck he'd only made it to Centertown by now. But someone was coming, someone or something, mounted on horseback Culliane had heard it as well, and looked along with him as the figures came into view.
They were quite the odd pair. The first was almost a giant, a huge man mounted on an equally large mount, almost surely a war-horse. As he drew nearer Shelway could see a large hilt jutting over the big man's right shoulder, poking through a large, dark cloak - no doubt it was through a slit. The other rode what looked like a mound of hair with four hooves. The rider was short and squat, a bald pate pink in the dying light of the sun. They rode with no particular rush, and the smaller one noticed the two guardsmen and smiled brightly, something visible even over a hundred yards. Shelway and Culliane looked at one another. Shelway shrugged, and Culliane blew out a sigh and shifted his grip on his spear. With a cluck and a cloud of dust, the riders reined in five feet before the guardsmen.
"Ho, warriors!" It was the small one that spoke, his voice cheerful and his smile massive. Up close, Shelway could see that he had a hairless face and pointed ears. "Have my companion and I found Nor'cress?"
Shelway nodded. "Aye, it's your bad luck that you have." He glanced at the shaggy mound "Unless your horses are strong and fast, I suggest you find your way over to the inn and stay the night." Shelway looked beyond the two travelers and saw no others behind them on the road. "It's not a goodtime to be in Nor'Cress."
The shorter one turned to his cohort. "Do you hear that, Nikich? Trouble here in Nor'cress." He turned to Shelway. "What kind of trouble, lad?"
Shelway looked to Culliane, who shrugged. "Strange things from the swamp. They come at night, and . . . well, they don't seem to be alive. Damned hard to kill, no matter what they are. And our holy man was one of the first they killed, so . ." He trailed off.
Hopping of his mount, the short one stretched. "Well, my name is Xythis, Xythis Canabar, and my companion and I are traders. We specialize in the odd and obscure, the bizarre and beneficial, the holy and helpful, the wondrous and weird. We've been to every corner of this world, and to a few corners elsewhere. And we might have just what you need! Why don't we get our horses stabled and see if you are interested in our wares?"
Shelway could only nod.
For the first time in days, the chatter in the inn was excited, upbeat. Though space was at a premium, with the entire town crammed into the tavern, a table was cleared for the traders to set up their wares. Xythis and Nikich sat, finishing off an ale with but a single cloth sack on the table in front of them. "So," said the squat trader, "who will tell us what's going on here?"
For a second not a soul stirred. Then a man edged forward from the crowd. "I be Edgyr, last of the town council still breathing. And I tell you that this was a good town, a good place to live." He looked around. "Then they came. The dead. They came out of the swamp at night, and they .. they . ." He feel silent, then sighed. "Many died. And then, to make it worse, those that died rose and walked with their killers against us. Why they rose at all, I don't know. Why they picked us, I don't know. But each night we cower in here and hide. We tried to fight, but they are difficult to kill, and ambushes proved useless they see with a sight other than ours." He looked at the traders, and his resolve stiffened a bit. "I hear you may be able to help us?"
Xythis nodded. "The Undead. Foul, horrible abominations. I don't blame you your fear. They are mighty foes, but ones that can be defeated. In a land far to the north, there was a similar problem. A warrior named Terterran led a group of soldiers to deal with such a foe. Of course, he went in armed with the proper tools." He thumped the seemingly empty sack. "And my partner and I will be most happy to sell you some of those items to make your own fight easier."
"Sell?" A voice from the back, possibly female. "Are you in any position to sell?"
Xythis rolled his eyes, and Nikich grinned, a sight that caused a few mothers to snatch up their children. Xythis idly waved a hand in front of him, crackling with blue fire. "Yes, sell. We're not agents of mercy, we're merchants. And this is no poor sod-farming town. Now, are we to do business?"
There was murmuring, then discussion, even some arguments, but finally agreement. And with that, Xythis began pulling items from his sack.
The Merchant's Wares
Terterran's Resolve: These are a set of pins carved from bone. They are stylized skulls cloven down the center, about halfway through the skull. The eyeholes and nose cavity are painted black. When worn, they give a +10 to all RR vs. fear. This increases to +30 if the RR is against an undead. One out of every 10 of these skulls was misenchanted the bonuses to the RR's still apply, but the pin attracts undead to the wearer like a beacon. The only physical difference between the two are tiny red dots in the eye sockets. All in Terterran's party wore one of these they numbered 40 when the expedition began.
The Blind Eye: Another pin, carved in jet as a stylized closed eye. When worn, the wearer is effectively invisible to all Class I undead, since the pin hides the wearer's life force. Class II have a 50% chance of seeing through the Eye's protection, Class III a 75% chance, and the Eye has no effect on Class IV and above. There were only 3 of these on the original expedition.
Kraget's Box: These are small wooden boxes engraved with runes. When placed on a surface and tapped in a specified sequence (3 short taps, then a traced circle and 3 short taps), the box, named for the alchemist who created it, mimics a very strong life force for 30 minutes, once a day. The magic in the box, when created, was equal to 50 points of constitution. Any undead close enough to a Kraget's box will first leech constitution from the box before it will leech constitution from a living being. When the box's magic constitution reaches zero, is becomes "dead." They cannot be recharged. Boxes contain 3d10 20 of magic constitution.
Sunoil: A thick, almost glue-like oil, Sunoil is applied to weapons and does extra damage to the undead when a hit is scored. It doubles concussion damage, and any points of damage it inflicts take twice as long for the undead to "heal." Sunoil has a 50% chance of wiping off after the first hit, and is always gone after the second. It comes in a tube made from an aquatic plant. Any attempt to keep it in another container will cause the Sunoil to dry out and become useless. A tube of Sunoil will coat a large weapon like a sword 3 times; spear heads and daggers 6 times, the head of a mace 4 times. Sunoil was also created by Kraget.
Narismassas: A very grainy, black powder, generally contained in a small, porcelain jar - about half the size of an average tavern mug. If it is left uncovered for an hour or more, the powder becomes useless. Narismassas is a combination of holy water and the ground up remains of bones, cooked until nothing remains but the powder. When spread on a freshly "killed" undead, the powder will not only keep that undead from rising, it will slowly dissolve and destroy the body. The contents should be emptied on the largest piece of the fallen undead, then even the severed extremities will be affected. If the contents are not completely dispersed on a single undead, the powder will merely slow "healing." If flung as a weapon, the undead will become obsessed with trying to get the powder off, but it will do no damage. (Although, considering the intelligence of many undead, they might stand there for several months trying to get it all off)
Visored Helms: Standard equipment for Terterran's crew, these helms had a flip down visor. Besides a +5 to DB, lowering the visor activates a Nightvision spell (from Open Essence Physical Enhancement list, as if cast by a 10th level caster) once per day.
Terterran's Edge: A +5 non-magic longsword, Terterran's Edge is +15 magical against undead. The first 3 spells of the Paladin base list Exorcisms are stored in the blade, along with a PP pool of 15 points. The PP's replenish themselves at the rate of 3 per hour in sunlight. The blade does not cast the spells the wielder, properly attuned, casts the spells as if he or she was casting them personally. The wielder's level is used to calculate time needed for casting.
For the record . . . How Xythis and Nikich came into possession of these items is unknown. Terterran's expedition was a relative success "relative" because while the undead were never seen in those parts again, neither were Terterran nor any of his crew.
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