Happy Sol’s Day!
Lief Crispen slowly made his way down the path that was marked on his map to, as it said, a cave entrance. He placed his hand on the talisman of the goddess Sensua around his neck and could almost feel some sort of divine influence. His mother’s prayers probably. Her devotion to the goddess was well known and it was a great comfort to him.
Had it not been for the map he most certainly, even with his good powers of observation, missed the path. It was purposefully hidden by brush and branches. Once on it, the path took Leif up the side of one of the many hills in the area. It was slow going, because of the need to push brush aside at points and the steady incline up the hill. Finally, he found himself at the entrance arch of the cave. It was about noon and five hours or so since he had left his mother. For an arch, it was, crafted of stone. He recognized, as most citizens of Brightblade would, the Old Empire symbol of the dragon head as the keystone and the rest of it simply carved. Beyond the light didn’t show much being overhead and not shining down into the cave.
He slung his shield over his left shoulder and took a torch out of his backpack and lit it with the tinderbox. The flame sputtered to life and he held it aloft and with his spear, in his right hand and torch in the left, he went forward into the cave. The cave had a musty smell to it. People had definitely taken the natural formation of the cave and changed it. Adding stone wall here and chipping away at the rock there so a square hallway arched forward.
It didn’t take long for Lief to discover enemies. As he stepped out of the first hallway and into the first chamber, he spotted an Orc. The average size for an orc, it had grey skin and average-length tusks. The Orc spotted him too and sprung to life brandishing a cruel-looking axe and a round wooden shield. Lief had enough time to drop the torch and slide his shield on his left arm when the Orc struck swinging his axe toward his head. Leif countered with his spear and the blow slid down the shaft. Then the two faced off.
Lief for his part, had never actually been in combat before, but in a few moments, his guardsman training began to take over. Lief had the advantage of being able to keep the Orc at a distance with the spear. This proved to be decisive after a number of missed blows on both sides, Lief struck the Orc on his exposed side and pierced the Orc’s shoulder. Black blood seeped out of the wound. This also knocked the Orc off his feat. Lief closed but the Orc did the unexpected and threw sand from the floor of the cave into his face temporarily blinding him. The Orc stood back to its feet and slashed Lief’s arm leaving a flesh wound and then unexpectedly ran off down one of the two corridors that lead out of the chamber.
Lief cursed his luck and started to run after the Orc. Within a few seconds, Leif slowed and stopped realizing he would lose the Orc in the dark and he returned to the chamber and retrieved his torch which was still burning. He considered his options as he began to inspect the room. He noticed a small sack in one corner and opening it quickly he discovered food rations and not much else. He looked at the other exit beside where he had come in and decided against it. No, he had to follow the Orc and see if there were more of them. Cautiously, torch and spear in hand, he followed behind the Orc.
The path shifted slightly but then opened up into another chamber. Cautiously Lief walked and then froze when he heard and hiss from one of the corners. Shifting toward the sound, the torchlight revealed a large snake. It was at least ten feet long and a foot in diameter. It slithered slowly toward him and Leif dropped his torch on the ground and readied his shield. He noted the gold and silver coins on the floor around the snake. The snake reared up and its head swayed back and forth slightly about four feet off the ground. Lief gripped his spear a little tighter. The snake reared back and it struck, at that moment Lief stepped aside quickly and thrusted his spear at the snake’s neck. He felt the spear point bite flesh and as the snake thrashed its head sideways it pulled the spear from his grasp. Leif backed up and drew his sword. The snake had been wounded badly but it turned to face him again. Leif could see green venom dripping from its fangs.
This time the snake seemed to want to circle Leif. It’s being more cautious. Lief decided to strike himself leading with his shield toward the snake’s head. The snake struck and Lief smashed his shield against its head. stunning the creature. Leif wasted no time and slashed his sword at its neck and with a single blow severed the head off. The body thrashed around and Leif backed up to avoid it hitting him. In a very few seconds, it fell completely still.
Lief pulled off his pack and retrieved a cloth to wipe his blade and then after recovering his spear did the same with the point. He then turned his attention to the floor of the chamber which glittered with gold and silver coins. He looked at them – crowns (the gold coins of Brightblade) and lords (silver). He found a sack on the ground as well which still had some coins as well as a few small gems. He wondered if this was the treasure from the map and then realized the map never really said it was to treasure, but to a hideout. If this was the treasure there were roughly 300 crowns worth of coins and 200 crowns of gems. He couldn’t be sure about the gems as he was no expert.
He collected everything into the sack and as he looked around he saw there was only one route that the Orc could have used. He found his torch which was still burning and returned to the entrance chamber. He placed the sack next to the other with the food and then returned to where the snake lay dead. He was relieved that no Orc patrol party had found him but he was puzzled as to why.
He decided to continue as the wound he got from the Orc had started to sting a little, but it had stopped bleeding. The path continued for about fifty more feet and then opened up into a third chamber. He paused and looked around the corner cautiously and to his surprise he saw a beautiful woman who was sitting in a meditative position with her eyes closed.
She was dressed in chain mail armor with a small helm. He didn’t see a shield but could see her mace laying on the ground in front of her. Around her neck was the holy symbol of Sensua much like his own. She was wearing a red tunic with silver trim under the armor. An Acolyte, but what was she doing here? Acolytes usually never travel alone or too far from the temple. But then he realized he didn’t really know much about the clerics of Sensua other than his own experiences with the priestess at the altar and the dozen or so acolyte females he had competed the ritual with over the years. He knew they were great healers but what else did he really know?
He rounded the corner wondering what to do and the woman’s eyes fluttered open. They were lovely blue to match her blonde hair. He remembered seeing her in the house of love but had not ever completed a ritual with her, so he didn’t know her name,
“Oh my Sensua be praised, my prayers have been answered. I was afraid I was going to have to rescue my friend alone. OH, you’re hurt, Let me help with that.”
She stood and Leif saw she was only a half head shorter than him. She approached and touched his arm where he was wounded. The wound closed completely and then disappeared altogether. Lief was not shocked as he had seen something like this before when a few of his mates had been hurt during practices. They always kept a cleric of Sensua nearby for such things.
“Acolyte, why are you here?’
“Trying to rescue a friend. Elana and I were praying in the garden when we felt very strange. A strange man walked into the garden and he was chanting. I realize now it was a spell. Both of us fell asleep. When I woke up, Elana was gone and a note was left on my chest. It demanded ransom for her or the person would kill her in a week. So, I set out to the place is said to leave the ransom – this cave. The problem is the man who took her has no intention of letting her go.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because the man who took her is Barthon the Vile. He would more likely be interested in taking any money I brought and then capturing me as well.”
Lief had heard of Barthon the Vile. He was a wizard with a criminal past. A very vicious and, as his name suggested, vile past.
“You are probably correct with Barthon. His tastes would not involve letting female prisoners go alive.”
The acolyte nodded.
“My name is Fredica. I see the symbol of Sensua around your neck. Will you help me?”
“Yes, but I was chasing an Orc. Have you seen any?”
“Yes, one ran by some minutes ago. He was wounded. Your doing?”
“Yes, so Barthon is here and at least one Orc.”
“So it would seem, but there are two of us as well.”
After some moments the two of them headed down the passage that Fredica has seen the Orc run. After about 50 yards they heard voices and could see the light up ahead. Lief put out his torch and the two silently went forward. The voices became louder.
“Get up Orc. Who else did you see? Just a warrior with a spear and a cleric of Sensua.”
“That’s all Master. Just those two. I ran here as fast as possible after the warrior wounded me in combat. Please don’t hit me again. We could trick them.”
Fredrica touched Lief’s arm.
“That’s Barthon’s voice. They are not expecting us, we should surprise them.”
Then Lief heard the chanting of someone casting a spell. It was Barthon’s voice. When it finished the Orc spoke.
“Oh, that is good master. No one can see you now.”
Fredica whispered quickly, “Now before they can prepare more.”
Lief moved into the chamber ahead with his spear and shield ready. All he saw was the Orc which let out a surprised cry and then charged with his axe. For a few moments, Lief lost concern for where the wizard was having to deal with the Orc.
In that battle that followed Leif and the orc struggled to get an advantage, but eventually, Lief got the upper hand and with a strong thrust drove his spear into the orc’s belly. He tried to pull out his spear but it was stuck and as he looked around he saw Fredica swinging the mace seemingly at the air. Lief abandoned his spear and drew his sword.
Then the chanting of a spell began again and Barthon appeared.
He was younger than you would expect being a wizard. His black eyes, black hair, and short small frame appeared about 50 feet away on the other side of the chamber from where both Fredica and he were at. He had a cruel smile and wore black clothing with a hood over his head.
Barthon’s magic caused four glowing darts to appear in front of him. He waved his hand and two of them streaked toward Lief and the other two toward Fredica. They were so fast that there was no time to react. Fredica fell to the floor and didn’t move. The two that flew toward Lief suddenly struck something like a magic wall a couple of feet away from him and disappeared. Puzzled but angry, Lief moved forward toward the spell caster. Barthon moved backward toward the wall and then seemingly dropped out of sight through the floor. When he arrived where the wizard had been standing he found a trap door, He grabbed the handle and pulled but it wouldn’t move being locked from the other side.
Try as he might, the door wouldn’t open. He cursed in frustration. Then he remembered Fredica. Running back to where she lay prone on the ground he saw her face and knew at that instant she was dead. Her vacant eyes told him all he needed to know. Sadness filled him. He fell to his knees with grief and closed her eyes. After a few moments, he rose to his feet.
It was at this moment he realized that there was a side chamber to this larger one and he entered into it. It was there he found Elana. She was naked, tied, gagged, and laying sideways on the sand floor. She seemed very confused but relieved to see him, once she spotted the symbol of Sensua around his neck. Her grey eyes were sparkling under her long brown hair. He couldn’t help but notice her figure which was slightly buxom and athletic. Her skin was dark olive. He knelt beside her and removed her cloth gag. She coughed for a second and then spoke in a light beautiful tone.
“Thank you, sir. I thought for sure I was to be the next victim of Vile.”
“You are welcome, here let me untie you.”
Lief finished releasing her and they both stood to their feet, Despite being completely naked in front of him she showed no embarrassment or shame.
“Do you have any clothes?”
“No, Vile burned my novice robes in front of me. He said he couldn’t wait until my stupid friend brought the ransom so he could…”
Her voice trailed off and she looked away. Despite not being shaken up about being naked, this idea seemed to frighten her.
“I have bad news, Elana. Your friend did come but not with a ransom.”
“Fredica, where is she?”
“Out there in the other chamber. She didn’t…we fought Barthon and his Orc and she…”
Elana’s eyes watered slightly and then she rushed from the room. When Lief caught up to her she was kneeling next to her friend and sobbing. He knelt down beside her.
“I am sorry for your friend.”
“She was more than a friend, she was my lover before we became novices.”
Elana reached around her lover’s neck. She removed both her holy symbol and another necklace which had a small rune stone on it. She put both around her neck.
“She died trying to fight Barthon. He killed her with some sort of magic missiles. Two of them would have struck me, but some sort of magic preserved me.”
“Sensua’s magic. Response to your prayers. Have you done the ritual recently?”
“No, but my mother probably has just today. She promised to pray for me.”
“Protectin of the goddess. Your mother must be very faithful.”
“She is. But what are we going to do with Fredica?”
In the end, Elana took off all of Fredica’s armor, clothing, and equipment and put them on herself. This left Fredrica naked but Leif found a blanket in the extra room along with some more coins and gems He wrapped her in the blanket. Elana and he divided the treasure to carry among them and then he threw Fredica over his shoulder. Going back the way they came, they exited the cave after recovering the other rations and treasure at the door. It was night but the two agreed that they needed to get back to the temple so they walked on. Lief noticed the tears streaming down Elana’s face. He could feel her grief and soon a single tear formed under his right eye as well.
In keeping with the story as presented in the 1983 Basic Set of Dungeons and Dragons, I had to make some changes to the story. Leif still fights, but I made his foe an Orc and not a goblin. He also fights the snake but in my play, he didn’t get wounded there but by the goblin instead. I also was faced with the dilemma of the cleric’s death in that story and the fact I wanted to introduce my second character who is also a cleric. So I had the one be killed like in the story, and then I had the other one rescued to join Lief.
What random die rolls have determined so far is that the adventuring party’s patron will be the temple itself. Lief and Elana will be the first two and you will see in the next part of how that comes about. If you haven’t guessed Lief is not a regular fighter. What he is I will let you guess as the story unfolds.
In the Basic Set, the wizard is Bargle, but I have decided he will make a great first villain for my heroes, so I have renamed him Barthon the Vile. To make him Vile, one need only understand that there is little he will not do for money and to slake his peculiar sensual cravings. He is a magical assassin for all practical purposes with a taste for rape and murder.
The Goddess Sensua is actively involved with her followers. Her clerics (all of them) gain an advantage in any spell that is touch-based and if a person performs the love ritual (ritual sex) with one of them after praying and paying the cost, that person will receive any effect that cleric could do with their spells that can also be rituals. The problem is that this only works when the person is alive. Once dead, only truly powerful clerics of Sensua raise the dead. Sensua’s portfolio is Life, Love, and Fertility. She is a popular goddess and thus quite powerful.
There is a hierarchy of ranks in the temples of sensua:
- Novices: These are those new to the call of Sensua. They take care of the guests at the houses of love by making them comfortable while they wait for the clerics to see them. It is required of them to be naked at all times except when they are working in the house of love when they don their red robes to serve the guests. They practice the ritual on each other so that they are ready for their time to serve in the houses of love.
- Acolytes: These are those that have taken their oath of devotion to Sensua and have learned what is expected of them in the houses of love. They are the temple prostitutes if you will. They also can be commissioned for other tasks the Temple High Priest or Priestess might have planned as support. They wear red robes with silver trim.
- Adepts: The adepts become managers of the Acolytes at the Houses of Love. They wear robes of red with gold trim. Adepts are reserved for rituals involving special clients.
- Priest/Priestesses: These wear white robes and there are only six of them per temple, (three women and three men) at each temple. They are the altar keepers who pray for the parishioners, take their coins, and send them to the houses of love. These are reserved for very special season rituals and rituals involving the swearing of Oaths to Sensua.
- Curates: These Wear White with Silver Trim, they are reserved for very special rituals involving the Priest. Priestess levels and higher. There are only four of them per temple. (two women and two men).
- High Priest/High Priestess: Wear white with gold trim. Only High holy day rituals are involved. There is only one of each sex at the temple.
It should be noted that training in religion, duties, channeling divine spells, combat, etc. starts the moment a cleric of Sensua becomes a Novice. Training in healing art (medicine) is available as well as sexual training for the purpose of performing the ritual sex that is required for many things in the practice of the religion. It should be noted that Sensua is about sensual love and not just ritualized sex. One should enjoy the ritual for maximum effect. Just going through the motions of sex might cause the goddess to not work her magic for those involved.
Clerics of Sensua are trained very early to be comfortable with their bodies and the bodies of others. Novices are required to be naked on temple grounds at all times except when working in the house of love. After that, the bathhouse and common areas are clothing optional for all other ranks. Nudity is still required for all ranks to enter the inner prayer chapel. Each temple has dorms for the Novice through the Adept class. Sleeping areas are also considered common areas for the purpose of nudity. Once a cleric reaches the Preist/ Priestess class they are given private quarters.
It should be noted that disease is also a healing specialty for the clerics and this includes sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, pregnancy is not considered a curse or negative but a blessing because Sensua is about fertility. Children born to clerics are raised by the community although pregnancy does not happen as often as you would think. Sensua’s will is that her clerics perform their duties above all, so the focus is on fertility in the worshipers who are not clerics. If a female cleric gets pregnant, it is actually both very rare and considered the will of Sensua. It is however not uncommon for female worshipers who are praying for a child to get pregnant after a ritual and one must wonder if it is her husband or the male cleric who ‘blessed’ her.
The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.