Beyond the Karameikan Frontier

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bobloblah
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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16
Beyond the Karameikan Frontier

Alternately titled: ACKStually, I DON'T have a character rolled up.

...or, Why I'll never stay up that late again...honest!

We kicked off a new open table campaign with three players coming out. After the first two had arrived, it became readily apparent that one of them hadn’t yet rolled up a character. In fact, as we got into the process of doing so, it became clear that he really hadn’t read much of anything I’d sent up to that point. The other player volunteered a form-fillable character sheet he’d spent a few days building in Numbers for the iPad, and it took some time to get the file moved over due to the limitations of the iPad. Once that was sorted, off we went into character creation. Analysis paralysis quickly set in as the first player grilled me on how I might hypothetically rule on various proficiencies…

Two hours later, just as we were wrapping up on Belgarath the Mage for the first player, a third player showed up (we had known he would be late due to prior commitments). He, too, arrived sans character, so we started the agonizing process all over again: transfer Numbers character sheet to iPad, buy and download Numbers app, roll 5 sets of attributes with online dice roller, decide on class… and here is where we hit another slight snag, as this player decided he wouldn’t play any of the basic classes I’d offered. Fortunately, after browsing the Player’s Companion, he quickly settled on an Elven Ranger, and was more than happy to use one of the templates provided for the class (Woodland Stalker). We were finally ready to go!

Of course, by this point, it was 11:30pm. Our original quit time was 11:45pm. For some unfathomable reason, I decided to start playing anyway, reasoning that I’d at least get their characters settled into home base…

4th of Yarthmont, AC 999
Characters: Belgarath (Mage), Kalasandr (Thief), and Kane (Elven Ranger)
Mortal Wounds: none
Deaths: none
Treasure: none

The trio arrived at Guido’s Fort mid-morning on a cool spring day. They quickly found their way to the Lion’s Den where, after ordering breakfast, they tried to get the lay-of-the-land from the Publican. They were told that Guido’s Fort was the main rest-stop on this part of the Duke’s Road, and that the bulk across the river was known simply as “The Hill”, and that it was topped by a ruined monastery. They also learned that a sizeable portion of the local garrison had left to deal with some kind of trouble north up the Duke’s Road. Kalasandr tried to get more information from the handful of patrons with little success. That is, until he bought an ale for an individual known simply as The Old Timer. This ancient drunk informed the party that an army of orcs was encamped upon the Hill, waiting to attack, likely at the direction of an evil witch purported to live there, too. For her part, it was said the witch captured the souls of the unwary, and tortured them in her mansion that appeared to be a hovel from the outside.

Deciding there was little more to be gained in the tavern, the party headed over to the manor house of the local lord, Guido, the Explorer. There they were met by the lord’s reeve, Ivana. The reeve informed them the there had been some trouble in the vicinity of the fort of late, and that a number of homesteads had lost livestock, presumably to bandits. The most troubling development was that the latest raid two days prior had resulted not just in lost livestock, but the disappearance of the entire family from the Dmitros homestead. Wild rumours had started circulating about ogre slavers, but the reeve put little stock in these. She happily provided the party with directions to the Dmitros homestead, and informed them that there would no doubt be a reward if they could discover what had happened.

Smelling coin, the party immediately made the hour-long walk to the now deserted homestead. Upon arrival, Kane discovered the tracks of as many as half-a-dozen booted feet, as well as the tracks of something much larger than a man. The others checked the one-room farmhouse, discovering that its door had been smashed from the frame, and the interior had been ransacked in some sort of struggle. Of the Dmitros family and their livestock there was no sign, but the booted tracks did appear to lead back in the direction of both the fort, and the river.

Electing to follow the tracks, they eventually reached the mighty Shutterga River, very near Guido’s Fort. The Hill loomed on the far side. Seeing the ramshackle collection of jetties and docks that served the tiny fishing community which had sprung up near the fort, the party decided to barter with the fishermen for passage across the water. After some negotiation by Belgarath the spendthrift Mage (and most of the party’s remaining gold), a trip over the river was secured. Their pilot, Boris, seemed to find the idea that he would ever collect the 15 gold for the return trip inexplicably funny.

The boat ride took most of an hour, and by halfway across it was apparent that there were two main clearings where they could land. The northernmost was smaller, and appeared to be behind a shallower, marshy stretch of shore. The southernmost was much larger, and had a large waterfall at its furthest extent, with the stream issuing from the falls dividing the clearing. The party elected to head for the northernmost clearing, and waded ashore through mucky shallows as Boris left.

The clearing appeared to have two clear paths leading from it, and it was decided that sticking to the paths was the better option, as the rest of the area was heavily forested, and covered with thick undergrowth. The northern path appeared to head north along the shore of the Shutterga River, while the other path headed south-west up the Hill itself.

Wanting to move to higher ground, the party headed for the second path, and after the better part of an hour they emerged, sweating, into another large clearing. With two more paths as options, the group pushed on through the clearing in the direction they had been headed. Within another half-an-hour, a branching path met theirs, heading off to the west. Ignoring this, they continued, but were presently interrupted by the sound of flapping. Half-a-dozen strange creatures, looking like a cross between a bat and a mosquito, flew up the path from the trail they had just passed. As soon as the creatures’ approach was noticed, Belgarath stepped clumsily into a bush, Kane vanished into the undergrowth, and Kalasandr dropped to the ground under his cloak. Belgarath’s faithful wardog, Argos, was left on the trail, panting and wondering why his master was standing in a bush.

With a flutter of leathery wings, the creatures swarmed the wardog, one of them latching on to its side and piercing the hound with its fleshy proboscis. The rest of the group took advantage of the distraction the dog provided, and leapt to the attack: Kane fumbled his net, before recovering and snaring four of the things from the air; Belgarath blasted apart the one latched to his wardog with a magic missile spell; and Kalasandr smashed and stabbed several more. Within a few moments, the fight was over, with the last couple creatures fluttering away in search of an easier meal. Better still, the only injuries seemed to be to faithful Argos. Belgarath, husband of animals, tended briefly to the hound before the group moved on.

After another hour or so, a new trail split off downhill to the south, and the party decided to head this way in hopes that it would lead them back to the clearing with a waterfall that they had seen from the river. Their guess proved correct, and they soon found themselves at the opening to another large clearing that fronted onto the river. This time, however, they were not alone, and a couple hundred yards away were several armed and armoured humanoids, peering across the river towards the fort and making markings on the ground at their feet. The party watched them, unnoticed, trying to figure out what to do. Belgarath snuck over to explore the waterfall for anything of interest. Kane and Kalasandr began preparing an ambush; sunset was not many hours away, and they had no desire to be stranded on The Hill overnight. After numerous plans were made and discarded, the humanoids eventually finished whatever they were doing and left, exiting the clearing without spotting the party. The players quickly sent Belgarath’s familiar off to deliver their message to their ferryman, Boris, and then anxiously awaited his arrival.

Just as the light started to fade, Boris rowed up to the shore. The party quickly embarked, thankful to be off The Hill before dark. They returned to Guido’s Fort without incident, and headed to the manor to inform the reeve that the fort was in imminent danger of attack! Unfortunately, their proof amounted to nothing more than unsubstantiated claims of seeing three unidentified humanoids scratching in the dirt; hardly the most threatening report the fort had ever received. Ivana agreed that more investigation might be prudent, and asked the group to return to her when they were ready.

…and so the session ended…at 3:30am! After hastily agreeing to never run such a late session again, the players were booted out for the night.

bobloblah
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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Quit bugging me!

...unless you want to bee my honey?

Session 2, the Hill

We started late again, with the last of the players arriving after 8pm. We then took a while to get the standard jokes and greetings out of the way, and didn’t begin playing until nearly 9pm. We quickly dispensed with an attempt to purchase another wardog (none were available, as Guido’s Fort is only a hamlet at the stronghold itself, Class VI), before we got into the meat of the adventure…

6th of Yarthmont, AC 999
Characters: Endithas (Fighter 1), Belgarath (Mage 1), Caasi (Cleric 1), and Kalasandr (Thief 1)
Deaths: none
Mortal Wounds: Caasi (left arm disabled: can’t use a shield, 2nd weapon, or climb)

We kicked off play in our second session with the party trying to enact a bold plan of fraud: they would attempt to convince the residents of Guido’s Fort that destruction at the hands of the Army of Orcs was imminent, and only the PCs could save them – assuming, of course, that the locals ponied up and financed further expeditions across the water. The party put out the word of a community meeting at the public house, with all invited to discuss the future of the fort.

A good crowd showed up, as the meeting was the most interesting thing to happen in the area since the Dmitros family disappeared amidst rumours of ogre slavers on the loose. While the party had the fact that they seemed to be the only ones who’d returned from a trip to The Hill on their side (corroborated by Boris), Guido’s Reeve seemed less impressed with their attempts at extortion. The whole town meeting at the Lion’s Den wound down with the party buying a round of drinks, and the locals enthusiastically cheering them on to greater exploits (or death, whichever came first).

After the townsfolk began dispersing, Ivana discussed arrangements with the party, agreeing to finance the purchase of basic supplies and provisions, as well as arranging transport across the river, in return for any information on the movements or plans of the supposed Army of Orcs. Not entirely unreasonable, and it gave the new players a chance to pick up a few things they hadn’t had the money for.

The next morning, the party headed down to the river to be greeted by Boris, ever eager to ferry the group to the far shore (especially if it meant a break on his taxes). They landed in the same northern clearing as on the previous foray, once again wading ashore through the marshy shallows. The air was quite warm, and a few buzzing insects flitted about. The clearing was otherwise quiet. Following their previous map the party headed uphill to the south-west, through another quiet clearing (they listened and heard nothing), and on an unexplored path leading to the north. This path eventually opened into a much larger meadow, covered in chest high flowers and grass.

As the party stood on the edge of the meadow considering their options, several PCs noticed a distinct droning sound at the edge of hearing. As everyone stood and listened more carefully, the noise increased in volume, as if approaching, and Belgarath’s dog, Argus, began a low, rumbling growl in his chest. A moment later, a looping, dark blot rose into the sky above the grass nearby, humming incessantly, and flew towards the group in a meandering fashion…

…landing on Endithas, much to the warrior’s surprise. A stinger the size of a dagger jammed into his throat just above his chest plate, and Endithas immediately felt the burn of venom coursing through the wound. The giant insect fell twitching to the ground, it’s abdomen tearing free of the embedded stinger with a sucking, crunching sound. Caasi quickly used her Healing Proficiency and ability to Lay on Hands to remove the stinger and tend to the wound, and the Fighter made his Save vs. Poison.

With the droning sounds of more of the giant insects approaching, the party leapt into action! Unfortunately, that meant leaping in different directions. Endithas lunged forward into the clearing, crouching low in the waving grasses in an attempt to remain out of sight of the giant bees. Caasi immediately withdrew out of the clearing, back to the apparent safety of the treeline, and Belgarath dragged a growling Argus to join her, the fragile mage not wanting to be left to face the flying horrors alone. Kalasandr, whose lightning reflexes usually meant he would react first (I’m not sure his player has rolled less than a 4 for Initiative up to this point, plus his bonus), hesitated – the cover of the trees? Or the long grass of the clearing? Deciding he didn’t wish to completely abandon his wounded comrade, he bravely lunged after Endithas. And with that, the party was split. Which usually ends well.

Unable to communicate with each other, the two pairs of PCs began acting independently. Kalasandr and Endithas duck-walked across the large clearing, mindful to stay as hidden as possible in the long grass. Belgarath and Caasi dithered amongst the trees. The former pair soon reached the far side of the clearing (passing a fierce buzzing that may have been the bees’ hive) and discovered another path leading out of the area. They hustled across the relatively open ground as the grass gave way to trees and undergrowth, waiting for the droning sound of death from behind (or above). It never came.

Realising the others had now been gone for a long time, and seeing no sign of them beeing attacked (see what I did there?), Belgarath decided to attempt to move through the clearing under cover as the other two had apparently done. Grasping the collar of Argus tightly, he pulled the growling hound down on to his haunches and moved out. Caasi, finding herself alone, decided the patron Immortals of the Church of Karameikos would protect her! She held her shield and mace high, and advanced into the clearing in a defiant march. The bees, deciding they didn’t like her haughty demeanour (okay, not really – they’re bees!), quickly descended on her.

Caasi, realising that Immortals might be more interested in helping those who help themselves, assumed the foetal position on the ground, her shield covering as much of her as possible in an attempt to avoid the lethal stingers. As bees the size of small dogs rained down on her shield, she blindly lashed out around her shield at them.

DM’s aside: In the event, I decided to rule that she would gain a bonus to AC (which was already 7!), but suffer the attack penalty as for being blind.

She managed to squash a bee or two, before finally beeing (HA!) stung, then failed her Save vs. Poison; and here is where the (once again) late hour took its toll on me: paranoid after forgetting to allow Kane to Cleave in the previous session (these players were all new to ACKS, and I was having to remember everything), I convinced myself that I had forgotten to let her Cleave. I hadn’t, of course, as a 1st level Cleric can’t Cleave, but as recompense, I decide to allow a throw on the Mortal Wounds table if and when the other party members reached her.

Realising the bees swarming in the midst of the clearing must be attacking their friend, the now reunited Belgarath, Endithas, and Kalasandr quickly split up again, the latter two lunging back into the grass to help their companion they assumed was being attacked. As they neared the center of the clearing, a pair of the giant bees rose from the now dying Caasi and flew towards them. A few spectacular attacks later, and those bees had been dealt with, allowing the pair to reach the unconscious Cleric.

Meanwhile, finding himself once again alone, Belgarath moved somewhat more cautiously into the clearing, sending his faithful hound Argus ahead to hunt giant bees. The hound quickly attacked some bees, but came off the worst in the encounter, taking an envenomed stinger through the eye. As revenge, Belgarath obliterated the final threatening bee with a magic missile.

Caasi was revived, with her left arm reduced to a useless, blackened flipper by the bee’s venom. She downed a Potion of Healing (from the 3 generously gifted by The Old Timer), at least allowing her to move (sans shield). The party then moved on through the bee clearing, and while a faint droning could still be heard from the north-east, no further bees attacked the group.

Moving along the twisted network of trails, the party attempted to ascend towards one of the Hill’s summits, eventually finding themselves in another clearing. Here, the rocky granite spine of The Hill was exposed. Boulders lay about the clearing, and multiple trails led out of it, both uphill and down. Near the uphill end of the clearing, a squat, goat-legged stone statue sat on a plinth. A cave was also discovered, it’s entrance choked with underbrush. Leaving off the cave for later exploration (it was well past midnight in the real world), they looked a little more carefully at the statue, and discovered that it had glinting, purple gemstones for eyes.

Quickly deciding the trip wouldn’t be in vain, the party prised the gemstones from the statue’s eye sockets, then beat a hasty retreat back the way they had come, crossing to the safety of Guido’s Fort, bruised, battered, and no longer broke, but determined to make another attempt…

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Great write-ups! The bee's knees, you might say.

I feel quite bad for the poor cleric whose arm was reduced to a hideous black flipper, though.

bobloblah
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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Don't feel too bad, we got a lot of comedic mileage out of it, which will become apparent as I post further write-ups.

bobloblah
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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

There is a long and (ig)noble tradition in our group known as "the Richard Recap"...

Long before the intertubes, at the start of each session, we would summarize what had gone before so that everyone present would be on-board with where the adventure was at, so to speak. One of our players, in particular (I'll leave you to work out which one), relished these opportunities to regale his friends with his recollection of our exploits. The hilarious part was that his version of events was almost unrecognizable to everyone else who had been present for the session being recounted. We eventually formalized the process as the Richard Recap, and used it to get everyone in the right frame of mind (i.e. laughing uncontrollably) before we began play.

I still play with this individual, as he is one of my oldest and dearest friends. Hopefully he remains so after this post.

Below I present the first of his Richard Recaps for the current campaign, with very minor edits by me. I believe it's fair to say his grasp of events is much improved:

Belgarath the Mage said: We met up on the road to Guedo's Fort. After talking to some folks in town we learned that there was a family abducted from their farm. Our investigation led us across the river to a suspected orc encampment. After a pitched battle with some birds (scary birds) - which we won - we observed some orcs drawing a battle plan in the sand. After they had left we discovered that the plan was to attack the fort. We returned to the fort and warned them. They are going to finance a larger group to go back and get more intel on the orcs.

Oh, and there is a witch with scary monsters. Probably a myth, rumor, scary story for kids...

Oh, and half the town’s garrison is away tending to some disturbance up the road... but the town’s not vulnerable to attack, they have us!

bobloblah
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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Annoyingly, I don't seem to be able to reply to my own post, so the previous Richard Recap is out of order, and I can't inset them. Nevertheless, here's...

The Richard Recap Session 2

Death from above (again) RIP Argus

Belgarath said: It is with GREAT regret that I have to announce the passing of Argus, the best dog ever. Here are the details of his demise:

We prepared to bring the town together at the inn and raise some money to get another dog for our perilous journey across the river. Unfortunately, no one had a dog... and no one had any money, either. They were, however, happy to drink our free ale, and get really worried about the situation. We raised 0 gold, but we did manage to get a line of credit at the general store and free ferry rides across the river. I would call that a huge success.

Once on the other side of the river, we followed the path we didn’t follow last time which led to another clearing with more terror from the sky. This time in the form of giant bees. Argus’s barks rang out in bravery as the entire group split up in fear and panic, giving the bees a huge advantage. Its a wonder we were not all killed. In the end, Argus bravely defended his master, and with his last pant paid the ultimate price. I imagine him now in the afterlife sniffing another dogs butt, humping someone's leg at the tavern, or licking his genitals in public (his favorite pastimes), free from his duties as our fearless war dog. Donations can be made for another dog to Belgarath the Wizard, friend of dogs everywhere.

Oh, and we found a giant statue with gem eyes (which we liberated), and a cave.

bobloblah
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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Trying to Get a Head

...why don't you come on ogre?

Session 3, the Hill

The adventurers gathered in the Lion’s Den, planning their next attempt on The Hill. They leaned over one of the wooden tables, studying the map carved into it’s surface. The simple woodcutting represented all that they had discovered on their previous treks. They had determined that The Hill’s reputation as dangerous was well deserved, and knew that their meager band of a Mage, a Cleric, and a Thief wouldn’t stand a chance unaided.

“We have money from the gems I sold…” stated Belgarath the Miser, “I sold the two amethyst gems from that statue we found…” a faraway look entered Belgarath’s eyes, his voice dropping to a more conspiratorial tone, “She only wanted to give us two-hundred gold, but I drive a hard bargain!” he clenched his fist before him as he thought of the sale of the gems to Ivanna, reeve to the local lord. The others rolled their eyes as Belgarath turned triumphal, “…but remember, you all owe me 20 gold!”

“I’d really like to find a pet!” blurted the Elven Ranger, Kane. It was strange...he didn’t normally say much, but the last few days he had seemed obsessed with finding an animal… of some sort.

“Uh…” Caasi began, “I thought you had some elven festival, ‘Flight of the Lear’ or something, you had to be at?”

Kane looked at her darkly, “I’d really like to find a pet!” he repeated, before easing back into a shadowed corner of the room. He never seemed to be around when anyone was looking for him…

“Alright…” Kalasandr began, “…I can see, maybe, getting another wardog. But I think we need more muscle. Maybe we can find some prospective adventurers in Kelvin?”

“I’d like to visit the Church in Kelvin!” exclaimed Caasi, the useless flipper that was what remained of her left hand flopping as she spoke excitedly.

There was a moment of awkward silence as the others watched the grotesque spectacle, before studiously returning their gazes to the carved map of The Hill before them.

8th of Yarthmont, AC 999
Characters: Belgarath (Mage), Stikini (Owl Familiar), Cerberus and Bob (Belgarath's War Dogs), Caasi (Cleric), and Kalasandr (Thief), plus Belgarath’s Henchmen Dara (NM), Earl (NM), and Mearl (NM)
Deaths: none
Mortal Wounds: Mearl suffered notable scarring to his face when it was ripped open by an Ogre’s club (-2 to impersonate another)
Levelled: Dara (Fighter Level 1), Earl (Fighter Level 1), and Mearl (Fighter Level 1)

The third session found the party unable to agree on actions outside of the game (over the forum) in time for us to deal with them online. As such, we began the session with the party heading south to the city of Kelvin in search of dogs and able-bodied adventuring hopefuls.

The trip was entirely uneventful, as the party followed the well-patrolled Duke’s Road, with only the first dozen miles or so being through the borderlands near Guido’s Fort; thereafter, the signs of civilization near Kelvin were clear, with small hamlets and tended fields along the road. Reaching the city itself early the next morning, the group spent the next week buying a pair of wardogs named Cerberus and Bob, as well as recruiting Henchmen, with Dara, and her brothers Earl and Mearl being the result. Belgarath had convinced them he was a powerful wizard through the use of a simple Ventriloquism spell, and they were happy to have signed on with such a “potent” employer, as the riches ahead would undoubtedly beat farm work.

Returning to Guido’s Fort early on the 14th of Yarthmont, Kalasandr quickly found The Old Timer at the public house. He showed the old drunk a hand-drawn sketch of the statue they had encountered, and the man visibly blanched. After some direct questioning (and a lip-loosening libation), The Old Timer explained that he recognised the goat-legged figure as Orcus, an Immortal of Entropy who had been secretly worshipped when The Old Timer was a young man. Yet how did the The Old Timer know that if it was done in secret?

Unable to prise any more information from the ancient alcoholic, Kalasandr quickly joined the others at the dilapidated jetties lining the shore near the fort. The local fisherman, Boris, and his young son, Drajan, met the party and ferried them across the water.

Disembarking at the now familiar marshy northern landing, the party quickly moved inland to the clearing where they had faced the giant bees. Keeping low, the group moved through the clearing hidden in the tall grass. Faint buzzing was heard from the northeast of the clearing, but no further bees were encountered. The party exited the far side and made the arduous hike along the trails back to where they had previously discovered the cave and the statue.

Everything was as they had left it, with Belgarath’s owl familiar unable to find any recent tracks, either around the clearing, or in the entrance to the cave. Eager to finally discover a dungeon (or cave) to plunder, the party quickly ignited a lantern and pushed through the heavy, waist-high underbrush choking the cave entrance.

As the gloom of the cave descended on them, the party listened intently for any sound. Only the echoes of the wind outside came back to them from within. Cautiously moving forward, the party saw the cave expand and begin branching, with three main paths ahead: left, ahead, or back to the right.

“Which way?” whispered Kalasandr.

“Left! Always to the left!” said Caasi, emphatically. The others studied their boots, and generally tried to avoid looking at her ruined arm. Choosing to explore the branch to the left, the passage soon came to an end in an ever-tightening mass of stalactites and stalagmites.

Doubling back, the party took the branch that went back and to the right. This tunnel wound for a few dozen feet before opening into a small chamber dominated by a small pool. The water was opaque and brown, apparently containing minerals from a large stalactite that hung from the roof of the cave above the water. Terrified by the little pool of water, Kalasandr pulled a 10’ pole from beneath his cloak (“It’s so big!” the others remarked), and cautiously stuck his pole in the dirty wet hole, fearing swift death. His pole struck bottom a few inches below the surface. Nothing else happened.

Greatly relieved, the party moved back to the largest branch of the cave, which continued on more-or-less straight from the entrance and further split into left- and right-hand branches.

“Which way?” Belgarath asked.

“I told you!” replied Caasi, “Always to the left.”

Kalasandr tried hard to keep his eyes on her face. Anywhere but the flipper, really, “Ahh…right. I mean, okay. I’ll scout ahead.”

Relieved of the struggle to avoid looking at the Cleric's injury, Kalasandr pressed ahead. Moving silently into the shadows, the thief took the left-hand branch. Already at the limit of the lantern light, the ceiling soared into darkness as the passage opened into an enormous chamber.

Kalasandr waited for the rest of the party to catch up, and they all stood, listening. A faint sound reached their ears… a rustling, rubbing sound, just as a low, unpleasant smell became apparent. Taking a step forward, the thief’s boot sunk into a sticky pile of… something. As the lantern moved up, the ceiling of the cavern became faintly visible, with a mass of dog-sized, furry lumps undulating in the middle of the enormous cavern’s roof.

With an explosion of leathery wings, a flock of enormous bats dropped from the cave-roof and descended on the party! Kalasandr was struck in the head by one of the huge bats, and nearly nocked from his feet, blood sheeting down his face. Dara and Kalasandr fired arrows and bolts at monstrous bats, with the Thief scoring a spectacular hit in the shadowed, stalactite-ridden gloom (natural 20!). Unfortunately, even such a precise shot (max damage!) failed to kill the bat.

The party began to panic as they realised they had once again bitten off more than they could chew, and within moments decided that they needed to withdraw. Unlike their last attempt at a strategic withdrawal ( where the party ran screaming in all different directions), this one was conducted with a modicum of organisation, and they were able to withdraw from the cave in good order, the bright sunlight forcing the bats to retreat back to their roost. Through some minor miracle, none of the party members, other than Kalasandr, were even injured during the entire encounter.

After Caasi Layed on Hands (Hand, actually) to cure Kalasandr of injury, a plan was quickly developed: the party would re-enter the cave, but would secretly camp at the end of the stalactite and stalagmite choked passage until the bats left. They re-entered without incident, and encamped themselves in the cold dark at the end the passage. Sure enough, as night fell, the bats left the cave to hunt, and the party was able explore unhindered. There was only a single unexplored passage, and that led to a cave-in. The small pool was re-examined, and all manner of objects inserted into it, but it appeared harmless. Lastly, the group thoroughly searched the bats’ roost, and there, under a stinking pile of guano, Belgarath discovered a heavy, wrought-silver chain necklace. Triumphant and smeared with poop, the party bedded back down in the side passage for the night, only rousing some time after the giant bats had returned to their roost in the morning.

Setting out from the cave, the party headed south out of the clearing, then eventually took a cross-trail headed to the west. This trail eventually emptied into a fair size clearing set between two large bluffs of the Hill. Nestled in the middle of the clearing was a small, attractive, whitewashed cottage with green shutters, surrounded by well-tended gardens. Terrified that they had discovered the horrible witch rumoured to live on the Hill, the group spent the next twenty minutes skirting the clearing and trying to assess the situation. Belgarath’s owl familiar, Stikini, scouted the clearing, and returned to explain that two elderly women were weeding a small vegetable patch just north of the cottage. Kalasandr bravely volunteered to make contact, and walked alone across the clearing to speak with the elderly women.

As it turned out, the old gals greeted Kalasandr kindly, and were all too happy to trade some refreshing mint tea for a chat. The rest of the group was soon waved over, and more mint tea was served. The women seemed impervious to conversation about the horrors on the Hill, and it had begun to seem as if little would result from the exchange. Suddenly, the idea of a trade came up, and the two old women abruptly changed their tone; gone was the light-hearted hospitality, and in its place was a barely concealed excitement that a deal might be made. The party eventually agreed to perform a service for the women, in exchange for healing if and when the party might drop by in the future. Now all they needed to do was return to the old women bearing the head of the largest, meanest ogre on the Hill.

Deciding the deal seemed worthwhile, the party agreed and were pointed in the right direction, finding themselves some time later at the end of the trail, overlooking a precipitous drop. They quickly negotiated their way down, and discovered two cave entrances in the base of the cliff: the southern-most leading to an enormous wooden door, the northernmost leading into darkness.

Opting for the uncertainty of darkness, the party first explored the northernmost cave. The walls, floors, and roof of this cave were all exceedingly smooth, with an almost polished, wet look to them. The only inhabitants of note were small, firefly-like insects that swarmed around people (and animals! Poor Bob the Dog…) and burned them with the heat of their fiery bodies. These were quickly doused with the water from a very warm standing pool (or stream). That threat eliminated, the party’s ears were soon assaulted by the sound of a tremendous gurgling from the back of the cave, which built in volume and intensity for a few moments. Then, terrible, roiling clouds of super-heated steam erupted from somewhere past the standing water, and the group was forced to flee for their lives before the intense blast. All managed to escape, but Caasi suffered burns to her back and neck.

Realising that an ogre sized door probably meant ogres, the party moved the southern-most cave entrance. A quick listen revealed raucous sounds resembling combat or intense merriment coming from within. For only the second time since we began this campaign, the party formulated a plan…

Under the cover of the noise from within, iron spikes would be hammered into crevices on either side of the oversized, wooden door; the rope would anchored across the passage to the door at ogre-ankle height, and held secure by Earl and his brother Mearl; Kalasandr would hide in what would become the space behind the door when it was opened; Caasi would stand back from the door with the wardogs; and Belgarath would stand at the cave entrance with Dara, who would be ready with her bow.

Kalasandr rapped on the door with the butt of his sword, and the party waited…

The huge door opened, and an ugly beastman, like a cross between a 7’ man and an ape, stood in the doorway, blinking in the light and looking dumbfounded. But not moving.

Caasi shouted a challenge, and Dara fired an arrow that shattered on the cave wall… and the beast howled and charged!

…only to trip on the taut rope and fall flat on his face. Kalasandr lunged from behind the door onto the back of the beast, and plunged the length of his blade into the small of the foul thing’s back. The beastman arched back, then slumped forward, unmoving.

The party froze in shock. It had worked! IT HAD WORKED!

A loud grumbling came from within the room beyond the door, and everyone realised their task wasn’t complete.

“Places!” hissed Kalasandr, and everyone returned to their positions.

A second, similar-sized beastman moved into the doorway, and howled at the sight of his kin. The thing charged into the passage, neatly hopping the trip-rope (made his Save versus Paralysis)! The party swarmed him, stabbing, biting, and slashing him until he collapsed in a heap atop the first ogre.

The party froze in shock. IT HAD WORKED AGAIN, AND NO ONE HAD EVEN BEEN INJURED!

A heavy bellowing emanated form deeper within the ogre dwelling, followed by the sound of heavy footfalls approaching.

“Reset! Reset!” shouted Belgarath, and the party resumed their positions.

A moment later, the biggest, ugliest, meanest looking ogre on the entire Hill burst from the doorway… and tore the rope from the grasp of the Henchmen! Belgarath responded by blinding the thing with a Light spell, and the party once again swarmed the beast. Caasi and Kalasandr narrowly avoided death at the end of its massive club, but the massive brute eventually collapsed under the weight of their assault.

Without waiting for anything else to happen, Belgarath, Caasi, and Kalasandr all shouted, “Places!” and the party returned to their ambush… and waited… and waited… and waited… until, eventually, the Ogre’s wife (who was quite possibly uglier than her husband) came searching for her mate, only to discover that the murder hob-I mean, PCs - had slaughtered her family.

She tore through the trip rope and lashed out at the party, smashing Mearl flat with a single blow. For all the good it did her. The party again surrounded their prey, and within a few moments the terrible ogress collapsed, bleeding out from a score of wounds.

This time, a cheer went up, and the party separated the “daddy” ogre’s ugly head from his ugly body. Mearl was revived and healed by Caasi, the poor Henchman in severe shock, but with nothing more than some distinctive scars to show for his near-death experience. They then searched the den, discovering some diminutive slaves, and several chests. One of the chests was padlocked, which Kalasandr managed to pick. Inside they found the ogre’s treasure stash of hundreds of gold and silver coins, along with a handful of gems. The party appropriated the treasure, released the slaves, and then headed back to the elderly women with the gruesome ogre’s head in hand.

Their bargain fulfilled, the adventurers received healing before heading back to Guido’s Fort, knowing they now have a seemingly safe stop where they can secure aid while on the Hill itself.

Once back amongst civilization, Dara and Earl decided that adventuring was both lucrative, and easy, and left Belgarath’s employ to strike out on their own. As much as they pleaded, their brother, Mearl, refused. He was a changed man after his near-death experience, and he swore undying loyalty to Belgarath.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Good times! I love the success of their plan versus the Ogres. Bummer about the loss of two of their three henchmen, though.

Are the PCs close to leveling?

bobloblah
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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

As of this point, no, they weren't. We're about to play our 25th session this Friday, though, so a few things have happened in the interim.
;-)

bobloblah
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The Richard Recap Session 3

Planning actually works

Belgarath said: Abandoned by our fellow men Endithas and Kane, our small group of 3 were left to fend for ourselves. We set out to the big city to recruit some help. We were valiant, strong, shiny, beautiful, skilled adventurers whose very scent (tanned leather, oiled steel and week old BO) inspired dreams of heroic battle, treasure, and fame. Who wouldn’t want to join us? We planned to spend the day interviewing the throngs of applicants, picking only the best skilled and equipped. However, the big city is a harsh world, and we managed to round up 2 farm boys and their sister. Earl, big brother Meal, and Dara. The church looked at Cassi and agreed that her arm/flipper looked and smelled terribly awful, and then said, if she wanted it healed, SHOW US THE MONEY. We also managed to acquire two extra war dogs, Cerbrus (great name), and Bill, or Bob, or something (terrible name, can’t even remember it). So our new group of heroic adventurers, farmers, and dogs set out into the sunset to vanquish the evil that our former companions had not the courage for. We headed back across the river to the dangers that awaited. We followed the trails up to the cave and ventured in. DUH DUH DAAAH !!!!

The cave

Belgarath said: Once inside we explored and explored and ran into a colony of bats the size of flying pigs (death from above, again!). Kalasandr bravely took the first hit, and bled all over the place. It was starting to look like we weren’t going to make it, but then we had a novel idea: Run away! It worked, and we survived! We hid in a another part of the cave and waited until after dark when the horde of death went out to feed on insects or silly adventures that wander in the wilderness at night. We snuck back into their unguarded bat cave where Belgarath proceed to root through arm deep piles of rich, sticky, extra-potent bat guano that would put fear and nausea into any lesser man. Belgarath, risking his life, pushed back his fear (and breakfast), and bravely dug deeper and deeper until discovering a silver necklace. Thank the Immortals Belgarath was there to help the party when no one else could (rumours of a scat fetish are greatly exaggerated).

We left the cave and followed some trails and happened upon a cabin in a clearing in the woods.

The cabin

Belgarath said: Two old ladies tended to a quaint little garden behind the cabin in the middle of nowhere! It all seemed too perfect, too strange. How could they live here with all these dangers? The only sensible conclusion: they were witches? We approached with extreme caution, we strategized, quibbled, and thought of everything (we had learned our lesson with the bees). After a perfectly executed plan with a contingency for anything … the little old ladies offered us mint tea. After talking to the nice old ladies they offered us a mission to bring them the head of the eldest male ogre from a cave nearby in exchange for free Medicare upon future visits.

The Ogre lair

Belgarath said: People will do anything for free Medicare.

We found a cave with a ten foot door at the back of it. We surmised it was the ogres front door because it was TEN FRIGGIN' FEET TALL! Again reflecting on our lessons (read: beatings) from before, we devised the perfect Ogre killing trap. With Earl and Mearl stringing a rope across the doorway, Kalasandr hiding behind the door, Belgerath ready to unleash the awesome power of the maji, Dara providing bow support, and Cassi standing in plain view as the bait.

Knock Knock… Who’s there? Ogre killers. Ogre killers who? The best, most organized frickin' ogre killers in the land! That’s who!

As a younger looking Ogre opened the door, Dara showed we meant business by firing an arrow and completely missing him, but he still took the bait. Charging forward and tripping slightly on the rope, he never know what hit him; Kalasandr snuck forward the buried his short sword up to the hilt into the ogre's kidney. He fell dead. WOOO HOO!!! We got him!

Oh, not the oldest ogre, wrong one! Belgarath bravely got everyone back to their starting places, just in time for the brother of the dead Ogre to come running through the door. The trap worked perfectly again, with the dogs ripping off his arms.

Oh, not the oldest ogre, wrong one!

A massive roar from inside the cave indicated that the next Ogre was the right one. Places everyone! We reset. Belgarath unleashed the most powerful of his spells (Judge: the mighty Light spell), rendering the massive behemoth blind. Unfortunately, not before Earl - or maybe it was Mearl? - met the ogre's club which mashed him into goo. But we still prevailed, and the ogre fell. Whew...safe at last...

Cassi scraped Earl (or was it Mearl?) off the floor, and miraculously made him into a farm boy again.

Just then a mighty WWWWAAAGGGHHH!!!!! Came from inside the cave.

Places everyone! Mom is coming.

The trap worked perfectly again. Mom didn’t have a chance. After killing an entire family of Ogres in cold blood, we happily looted their home/cave, evicted some goblin slaves, and joyfully headed back to the quaint little old ladies (witches!) and handed over the Ogre's head. They offered us more information about the area for money, but we declined.

All in all, we are awesome and great. And by the way, we are now rich!

bobloblah
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Hobbling some Hobgoblins

...or, getting your gob hobbled!

(yes, I was really reaching when I titled this session)

Session 4, the Hill

The stalwart group of adventurers once again gathered around the map carved into the table in the common room of the Lion’s Den public house. Their prior exploration had yielded hints that danger lurked on The Hill, but they had found little solid evidence. They would need another expedition to find something concrete, but with Belgarath the Miser declining to join another expedition and taking his loyal man, Mearl, with him, they were notably understrength.

“Kelvin. We need to head to Kelvin, see if we can hire some more meatshie-I mean, Henchmen!” said Kalasandr, casting an embarrassed, sidelong glance at his hired man, Luka. The boy didn’t seem to have noticed, as he often tuned out when others spoke quickly.

“Hey, there… over here!” said Caasi, waving the flipper that was what remained of her poisoned arm. The others all seemed to find somewhere else to look, uncomfortable with the grotesque spectacle, “Now that we have some money, I need to go to the Church of Karameikos in Kelvin to see if they can help with this…” the flipper appeared to be waving goodbye.

“I’d really like to find a pet!”

Everyone started at that, turning to see Kane standing at the back of the group. Where had he come from? And why hadn’t they been able to find him earlier?

“What, like, a cat?” asked Kalasandr, somewhat confused. Kane’s elven eyes narrowed as he looked at the rogue. He then moved back into a shadowed corner of the common room without saying a word.

“Anyway…” Kalasandr continued, turning back to the carved map he’d been whittling, “…head to Kelvin, maybe some dogs, maybe some henchmen… what do you think?” he asked, turning expectantly to Endithas. The big man seemed to have joined them for their latest foray (though he’d never actually agreed to anything, remaining suspiciously mute). Endithas stared back at him, silently shrugging his shoulders.

Kalasandr sighed heavily, staring down at his latest additions carved into the table; how had he gotten involved with these people? Surely there were easier ways to make money? Like, say, robbing the Ducal Palace in Specularum...

16th of Yarthmont, AC 999
Characters: Caasi (Cleric 1), Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman, NM), Endithas Wolfram (Fighter 1), Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman, NM), Kalasandr (Thief 1), Luka and Waevryn (Kalasandr’s Henchmen, NM), Kane (Elven Ranger 1), 3 hunting dogs (belonging to Kane), and a partridge in a pear-tree.
Deaths: Luka skewered by Hobgoblins, along with Kane’s pack of hunting dogs
Mortal Wounds: Erasmus was rendered a quadriplegic by an unlucky whack from the butt of a Hobgoblin’s spear, and the tendons in Waevryn’s legs were slashed, leaving her barely able to walk.
Levelled: Kalasandr (Thief 2)

The party left Guido’s Fort in the drizzling rain, the trip to Kelvin being a cold, damp, and generally miserable affair. Muddy stretches of the road meant that they arrived at the Campgrounds (merchants' palisade outside the city walls) on the evening of the 17th of Yarthmont. Caasi set out first thing in the morning to the Church of Karameikos, and had the Patriarch cast Restore Life & Limb on her flipper. Her arm was restored, although her close contact with Immortal power left her a changed person, ever-after muttering to herself incessantly.

On the second night in Kelvin, the party began to fan out through the Campgrounds and local watering holes, looking for unfortunates crazy enough to risk a life of adventure for meagre coin. Fortunately, over the next several days, they found a handful of such individuals, Caasi even turning down some who had fallen under the spell of her eating a banana. The party finally left the city on the 25th, three new Henchmen in tow, outfitted with the best gear their employers could afford (which meant Luka and Waevryn were given chain armor, and Erasmus received a shiny, new mace with Endithas’ initials scribed into it).

Returning to the fort on the morning of the 26th, the party discovered from Ivana that another family had been abducted from the surrounding region. They traveled out and investigated the farmstead, finding it in a state much like the first: the home ransacked, and the animals (pigs, in this case) and people missing. They also discovered a crude, iron arrowhead embedded in the outside of the home’s front door, though the rest of the shaft was nowhere to be found.

Kane spent some time scouring the farm, and discovered a large number of tracks similar to what they had found around the Dmitros’ homestead: half-a-dozen booted feet, and a far larger set of prints much bigger than those of a man. They followed these tracks back towards the river and the fort, with the tracks once again vanishing by the water, nearly within sight of the fort’s palisade.

Deciding time was of the essence, the party quickly secured transport across the river with Boris and his son, landing this time in the larger, southern clearing, split by a waterfall and small stream. Moving up to the only known trailhead to lead from the clearing, Kane searched and discovered tracks, although these appeared to be different from those at the farmstead, and smaller than those of a man.

After a short debate, it was decided to follow these tracks back to their source; a marching order was established, and Kane scouted some distance ahead of the group. When he reached the first cross-trail, he spent some time re-acquiring the tracks, then waited for the others. He let them know what he had found, then headed out in front again along the trail to the south, a path the characters had not previously taken. Half-an-hour later, the trail split, with a branch heading west, and another continuing to the south. Kane once again spent several minutes examining the tracks, determining that they continued south.

With the rest of the party updated, Kane once again moved out in front. A short time later, after crossing a creek and traversing the flank of a small ridge, Kane spotted movement on the trail ahead. He quickly determined it was an enormous Ogre marching towards him. The beast had not yet spotted him, so Kane doubled-back at a sprint towards the party. Once there, a plan was hatched (after much arguing, and nearly taking too long) to ambush the Ogre, with the party hiding just off the trail. Kane and Fodora would be at the farthest spot with bows, followed by Endithas Wolfram and Erasmus, then Caasi, Luka, Kalasandr, and Waevryn nearest the Ogre’s approach.

Several minutes passed, the party waiting with baited breath… then, the thud of heavy footfalls neared, and the oblivious Ogre marched past the party. Kane waited until the Ogre was between the first and second group, then he and Fodora let loose with arrows. The beast’s first warning of danger was when an arrow from Kane’s bow sprouted from his chest!

With a deafening roar, the beast raised its club and charged up the path. Two more arrows flew past it, and then two new foes leapt from cover and blocked the Ogre’s advance towards the archers, one of them bashing the brute, the other (Endithas) tangling his two-handed sword in a shrubbery. Attempting to crush these two new, puny foes, the Ogre brought its club down, narrowly missing a blow that would've turned Endithas to jelly. The rest of the party charged up towards the Ogre’s back, Kalasandr in the lead, hoping to repeat his ogre-slaying performance from a previous foray. It was not to be, however, as another of Kane’s arrows sprouted from the Ogre’s throat, and the monstrous thing collapsed in a heap with barely a gurgle.

After a brief victory dance, the party looted the corpse, shoving their hands into the Ogre’s dirty sack, looking for his jewels. They instead discovered hundreds of gold, which they pocketed. Kane also cut off one of the beast’s massive, wax-filled ears as a trophy leaving the rest of the party gagging at the sight. They then dragged the foul-smelling corpse 100 yards into the woods, and covered the signs of battle as best they could, washing themselves in the creek they had passed.

Continuing warily along the southbound trail, the party crossed the ridgeline and began descending the far side. Within another half-an-hour, the surrounding forest had become boggy, and as the trail turned westward, the party broke into a large clearing that dropped away to the south and became marshland. Terrified of another Ogre encounter in open terrain, the party skirted the northern end of the clearing amongst the trees. In spite of catching sight of some sort of built earthen structure to the south where the forest turned to swamp, they remained hidden, reaching the trail on the opposite side of the clearing. The group continued westward.

The trail slowly turned northward, rising as it went, and eventually intersected another trail running east to west. Kalasandr, with his Mapping Proficiency, immediately recognized the intersection as someplace he had previously been, and, after a brief discussion, it was decided to turn westward towards the mysterious cottage, with the goal of investigating another branch of the path they had seen running north.

A short time later, as the party advanced up this branch, a shout was heard from the path ahead, and several figures were seen running away from the party. Kane made out shouts in hobgoblin of, “Intruders!” and the party realised they had been spotted by sentries. Itching for action, the group broke into run, pursuing the fleeing Hobgoblins. They didn’t have to go far…

The trail soon emptied into a long open area beside a small lake that ran north-to-south. At the far northern end of the clearing was a series of huts and tents, and out of these boiled a dozen Hobgoblin warriors, armed and armoured for battle! Here the party made their first mistake, dithering as they discussed whether to withdraw or fight, and if fight, whether here, or on the trail. Their hesitation gave their foes time to finish donning weapons and armor, before forming rank and charging down the muddy shore of the lake towards the waiting party.

Then the PCs arguably made their second mistake, electing to remain in the clearing to fight the Hobgoblins, instead of withdrawing to the trail, which would have limited the Hobgoblins’ ability to take advantage of their superior numbers.

The archers of the party began loosing shots as the Hobgoblins closed the distance, but the initial volley went completely wide due to the extreme range. The second volley was equally ineffective, with the Hobgoblins now near to closing the gap. Thinking quickly, Kane sent his three hunting dogs charging towards their foes. While he would be unable to effectively control them, they would present no risk to the party, and had the desired effect of stalling the Hobgoblins’ charge. Caught in the open, they again weathered a volley of missile fire from the party without ill effect, before turning to the annoying hunting dogs, and skewering them on their spears. Realising they would need to engage the creatures in mêlée, party members began charging forward, with Endithas Wolfram leading the way. Several Hobgoblins hurled their spears at the charging party members, but only Endithas was injured, a mere scrape across his thigh.

A swirling and chaotic fight began, with the Hobgoblins surrounding the PCs and their Henchmen. Luka was able to drop one the creatures, but was then impaled on a pair of spears. Endithas cut down several of the things, including their champion (splitting him head to toe), but was grievously injured in turn, barely staying on his feet. Erasmus fell next, a spear butt catching him beneath the back of his helm. He crumpled in a heap, unable to move his limbs. Waevryn was able to injure several of her foes before she, too, was cut down, with Caasi being felled atop her.

Just as all hope seemed lost, and a TPK seemed imminent (Kalasandr’s player belatedly observed that they were, in fact, outnumbered by foes that had, on average, more hit points and better Attack Throws), Kane’s deadeye archery finally began to take its toll. Able to shoot into mêlée, and dropping a pair of Hobgoblins several rounds in a row, Kane turned the tide of the battle. Amazingly, the Hobgoblins’ morale held to the bitter end, with Kane using his net to capture the last remaining runt of a Hobgoblin before it could flee.

Those characters left standing moved to render aid to their fallen comrades, with Caasi being the priority due to her ability to heal others. A Potion of Healing was poured down her throat and her wounds were bound. As she came to, it became clear that a Hobgoblin spear had pierced her left forearm, slicing the tendons and rendering it useless; at least this time it wasn’t a flipper! She would need time to recuperate. Endithas, Kane, and Kalasandr quickly set about helping the others. Unfortunately, none fared as well as she had…

Luka’s body had been pierced by so many spears that there was no hope for him. Erasmus had had his spine broken at the neck, and he was unable to move his limbs. Waevryn had suffered so many wounds to her legs that she would never walk the same again. Doing what they could, everyone (except poor Luka and the paralyzed Erasmus) was helped to their feet, and the party then moved down to the far end of the clearing to search the monsters’ encampment. They found a paltry sum of gold, a number of wineskins filled with cheap wine, broken weapons and armor, and several roasted pigs. Could these have come from the Sergeyev farm?

The sun was getting low in the sky, so the party decided they would make a quick detour to see the strange old women whose cottage was nearby, then head back to the fort. On the way out of the clearing, Endithas retrieved the strange, black scimitar from the body of the Hobgoblin leader.

Unfortunately, neither of the sisters, Rosabella and Rosalinda, could aid those suffering Mortal Wounds beyond basic healing. They instead invited the party to spend the night in their cottage, as the sun was now setting. Everyone agreed, and they were led inside the little cottage, only to discover a vastly different space on the inside: a huge entry hall led to a spiral staircase up to a second floor that didn’t appear to exist from the outside, down a long hall much bigger than the cottage itself, off of which were a number of sumptuously appointed bedrooms. Everywhere they looked in the house, beautiful knick-knacks, curios, and artwork lined shelves, hung from walls, and sat in corners. The total value of these things was no doubt enormous!

The PCs and their Henchmen were each assigned one of the luxurious bedrooms, and spent the night in comfort far better than the common sleeping room at the Lion’s Den. On the morning of the 27th, they said their goodbyes and made their way back to the southern clearing on the river, crossing back to the fort. Several jokes were made about pushing the now-paralyzed Erasmus overboard (party members who don't survive don't take a share of XP), but the horrified stares of Boris and their other Henchmen quickly ended such talk, and the rest of the trip was made in awkward silence.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Brutal! What happened to Belgerath, by the way? Was this a new group? Change of players?

bobloblah
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Yeah, it was a rough session. Amazing that none of the party died (it was close). I've made a habit of rolling everything I can (i.e. rolls not containing hidden information) in the open, so they know it's all on them. I am a cruel, but fair, Overlord. Actually, it's been really fascinating watching them, in effect, learn to play again! Several of these players are people I played with back in the 80s, so I know they were once used to the unforgiving nature of AD&D and BECMI (we still tell stories about particular TPKs), but a lot of that got lost through the 2000s.

This was the same group. It's an open table, so players show up for sessions, or not, as they're able. Belgarath had to work (his player and Kane's player are both pilots, with highly irregular schedules). I do my best to keep the sessions self-contained, so there's rarely a problem with a player being present for a session, then not showing up for a few weeks. There've even been some sessions with people using secondary characters to run with new players at different in-game locations. I expect more of that if I manage to grow the player-base; we're at 7 players now (all new converts to ACKS, I might add), with an eighth player contingent on him finishing his PhD.

bobloblah
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Oh, not sure if you caught it, but there was also the highly amusing fact that Caasi went down again, and got the same result on the Mortal Wounds Table that she had just paid 500gp to have removed. She took it surprisingly well.

bobloblah
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In Search of the Ruined Monastery

...on Hill, you not have bone to pick, bone picks you!

Session 5, the Hill

We handled the first part on our forum in order to get a few things out of the way before the main session... in fact, the story-style intros to these sessions are generally me trying to weave the ridiculous interactions on our forum (Kalasandr's player insisting he wanted "throwing daggers", not "regular daggers", because one of the ACKS Class Templates had them), and in-person banter before the session (Endithas' player proudly informing us he'd figured out the internet and finally started posting to the forum) into something in-character and funny. I'm not sure how they read to anyone else, but to the people who were there, they're usually at least amusing. What can I say? In jokes.

Reading this now, I've also noticed that some these had a tremendous amount of travel description. I had all this in here originally so that the party could re-trace their steps by looking at their maps and a session report, but I realise it's probably a little dull to wade through now. As I don't have the time to re-write it all, I'll just apologise in advance.

Your meeting takes place in the parlour of Guido’s manor house, and Ivana receives you with great interest. You tell her your tale, and she occasionally stops you for further questioning. She then spends several minutes questioning the unfortunate Hobgoblin, Neepo. As she becomes more forceful, he provides much the same information he gave to you: there is a Hobgoblin King, his clan lives on The Hill… yet Neepo seems hopelessly evasive around what their intentions are. After a few more moments of fruitless questioning, Ivana draws forth her sword in a single, smooth motion; the blade decapitates the Hobgoblin prisoner.

Ivana seems deeply troubled by what you’ve brought to her, “We knew the rumours about the monastery, of course, but believed it surely abandoned. We’ve had no actual trouble from anything beyond the river in many years, not since the early days of my Lord establishing the fort!” She sighs heavily, “You’ve brought me enough to be concerned. This is solid evidence of a threat, and I will be true to my word…” she turns, heading to the far side of the room, and retrieves a small coin purse from a table, stepping over the Hobgoblin corpse to hand it to you, “Here. The promised bounty of 250 gold.”

As you reach for the gold, she speaks, “However… there is more I would ask of you… if you’re interested. Such a threat must be dealt with. My Lord, Guido, has been summoned to Kelvin over the banditry plaguing the caravans to the north, and I am needed here.”

She looks the lot of you over and raises an eyebrow, “…but you? No doubt you have no obligations beyond coin. I need someone to eliminate this threat.” Ivana raises a hand, forestalling any protest, “I understand… you worry about insufficient strength. I might be able to help you there…. while I cannot spare many men or women from the garrison, I would be willing to let you hire a few. They would be volunteers, and as long as you pay them the equivalent of their monthly pay, I believe you would have enough to bolster your strength. What say you?”

Soon after, Belgarath, Caasi, Endithas, and Kalasandr gathered in the common room of Lion’s Den. Their last foray to The Hill had been a success, at least in as much as everyone had survived, but some of the injuries had been grievous. Erasmus had his neck broken, and could not move his limbs. Waevryn’s legs had been mauled, and she could barely walk. While the henchmen had been healed in Kelvin during the previous week, (at considerable expense), even Caasi had been badly injured, and her left arm was once again useless. At least this time it still looked normal, hanging across her chest in a sling. The others still hadn’t managed to get the image of her flipper out of their heads…

They had gone to Ivana Boritsa with their concerns and their hobgoblin prisoner, and she had finally believed that there was indeed a threat to the fort. The party was given leave to hire volunteer guardsmen from the garrison, and use them in an attempt to eliminate the threat posed by the Hobgoblin King and his minions. The party canvassed for volunteers, and seven bowmen and five infantrymen decided the additional pay was worth the risks of employment by the likes of the PCs.

Kalasandr fingered the black-bladed hobgoblin scimitar that now hung at his belt; he had been unable to find throwing daggers, and had received the strangest looks when he had turned down the obviously inferior non-throwing daggers every merchant had tried to saddle him with. On the other hand, Endithas had actually begun speaking to everyone, so that was a positive.

Belgarath would send his owl familiar, Stikini (though everyone called the poor bird “Stinky”) to scout The Hill ahead of the main group, and the rest would follow. They would search the north side of The Hill for the demesne of the rumoured King of the Hobgoblins…

2nd of Klarmont, AC 999
Characters: Belgarath (Mage 1), Mearl (Belgarath’s Henchman), 2 War Dogs belonging to Belgarath, Caasi (Cleric 1), Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman), Endithas Wolfram (Fighter 1), Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr (Thief 2), and Waevryn (Kalasandr’s Henchman)
Deaths: None!
Mortal Wounds: One of the infantrymen had his two front teeth knocked out by a Skeleton
Leveled: Erasmus, Fodora, and Waevryn all reached Level 1

The day dawned mild, with a light breeze and drizzle as the party herded their large complement of mercenaries into the small boats by the water. It would take them several trips for the entire group to travel across the river, and it was mid-morning by the time all had gathered on the far bank.

As planned, Belgarath sent his owl familiar, Stikini, ahead of the main group as a scout. The heavy tree cover meant the bird would need to fly close to the ground to get a good look at the trails. Within an hour, Stikini reached the clearing of the statue over clear trails. Unfortunately, he was attacked by a swarm of roosting Stirges, and narrowly escaped back to the safety of the group. By the time the party and their hired army reached the statue, the Stirges had fled.

Consulting their map, and keenly aware of their vulnerability while moving single-file, the group tried to navigate around any known threats. As they moved off the far north-western edge of their mapping, Kalasandr began scouting ahead, eventually reaching a dead-end in the trail at the top of a cliff. The scarp Kalasandr stood on overlooked the northern flank of The Hill, with a small, narrow lake at its base less than a hundred yards to the west. Far to the east, he could make out a clearing amongst the trees. Similarly, far off to the west, between a pair of high ridges, part of another clearing could be seen. Kalasandr doubled back towards the rest of the group, and after some brief discussion they headed on a branch of the trail to the south-west, with the thief once again scouting ahead.

Within the hour the trail curved ‘round to the west, and ran along a steep incline, the bulk of The Hill rising sharply on Kalasandr’s left and looming above the trail, with a veritable cliff dropping away from the trail on Kalasandr’s right. Presently, the vegetation thinned as the trail opened into a small clearing, bare to the granite of the Hill. A small stream cut across the clearing and tumbled over the cliff Kalasandr had been following on his right. On the far side of the clearing was what appeared to be a lone hobgoblin sentry, disinterestedly leaning against its spear.

Once again, Kalasandr doubled back to the main group, taking the bowmen forward to ambush the hobgoblin sentry. The sentry was caught completely unaware, and fell pierced by many arrows before it even knew it was under attack. The clearing was quickly scouted, with the stream appearing to flow from a small lake in the woods, before flowing across the clearing, over the edge and connecting to a long, narrow lake near the base of the cliff. The party forded the stream and continued following the trail.

After another hour or so, the trail passed between two high ridges to the north and south, some of the highest peaks of the Hill, and finally opened into the largest clearing the party had yet seen on The Hill. This new clearing was enormous, and unlike any others they had seen; the vegetation here was dead or dying, with bare trees reaching like claws towards the sky, and sparse clumps of brown grass clinging to the dusty soil. The group formed proper ranks and headed around the eastern edge of the clearing towards the far end. The eerie silence, and strange lack of living things set the mercenaries on edge, and it was clear that their morale was suffering. Doing their best to keep the men calm, the group forged ahead, discovering another trail leading from the clearing at the north-east end.

Switching back to single file, with Kalasandr scouting ahead, the PCs headed uphill to the east. The trees and underbrush surrounding this new path were no better off than in the clearing they had just left, with mostly bare plants, as if the entire forest here was dead. Within twenty minutes, the dead forest cover thinned, and Kalasandr realised that what he had assumed was a scrub-covered ridge ahead, was, in fact, the remains of a low, stone wall. Moving closer, he could see that it was indeed man-made, and had once been the height of a man, but was now badly crumbled and overgrown, with some sections entirely collapsed. Kalasandr cautiously waited for the rest of the party to arrive.

After the party regrouped, they began to scout the perimeter, finding several breaches in the west side of the rectangular wall, and some small buildings rising above it in the south-west corner. Carefully climbing over the wall near the low buildings, they could see across a large expanse of what must have once been the monastery grounds. An enormous pool a few hundred feet across, filled with scummy, green water, dominated an open area half-a-dozen acres in size enclosed by the wall. To the north-west was an area heavily overgrown with thorn bushes. To the east of the pool, the remains of a collapsed building. At the north end of the compound, a larger building squatted against the wall, and in the middle, a tall, rectangular building with no windows stood brooding, a line of toppled columns flanking a path leading to it. Everywhere were the signs of long abandonment, cobbles broken and overturned by vegetation, trees sprouting from paths, and vines covering the face of every building.

The group moved to scout the nearby small buildings, leaving several archers to keep watch on the low wall. Suddenly, Stikini let out a harsh cry! The familiar had spotted several figures hustling away from the compound, headed back along the path to the west. A pursuit was quickly organised, with Endithas and Kalasandr leading several of the infantry men in pursuit. They managed to follow their quarry back to the enormous, dead clearing, but it quickly became apparent that the lead was too great, and they decided to return to the main group at the monastery.

Meanwhile, as mercenaries kept watch, Caasi battered her way into the low building and began exploring. It appeared as nothing more than a barracks, with an attached eating hall and kitchen. Everything had fallen into decay, and the place appeared to have been looted some time in the long distant past. With no apparent danger present, it was decided that it could be used as a base for exploring the monastery.

The pursuit party returned, and the group began to explore the rest of the compound, once again leaving archers positioned well back from the main group. As they moved around between the ruined building and the large pool, a clattering sound came from the collapsed structure. The sound of tumbling stone increased, and group of giant centipedes came streaming out of the rubble, catching the PCs off guard. Battle was soon joined, with Endithas Wolfram and his man, Erasmus, in the thick of things. Both of them were bitten by the foul insects, and both succumbed to violent retching and nausea as the centipedes’ poison took effect. The dozen insects were eventually dispatched without further injury, but Endithas and his henchman were now both incapacitated, able to do little more than walk. The party withdrew back to the barracks and settled in to spend the night, hoping for relief from the poison by the morning.

During the watches of the night, something large came snuffling and scrabbling at the doors to the barracks, but the group remained silent, and the creature, whatever it was, eventually lost interest and left.

Morning dawned cool and misty, with the party members suffering from poison showing no signs of improvement. A decision was made to continue exploring.

(Endithas’ player took over Mearl for the rest of the session)

Moving along the same route as the prior day, past the pool and collapsed bathhouse, the party came to a large, brooding building with no windows, and a high roof tiled with slate. They moved around the building, finding nothing but a set of wooden double doors carved with the leering face they had seen on a lonely statue elsewhere on The Hill. After exploring the perimeter, Kalasandr climbed up onto the roof. Here again, there were no openings, and the roof itself looked sound. The thief climbed back down, and checked the double doors for traps. Finding nothing, they tried to open the doors, but discovered that they appeared to be locked. Listening at the door, they heard nothing. Throwing caution to the wind, they pounded on the door, and arrayed themselves to attack whatever came out. After a few minutes of tension, the party relaxed, and tried to decide how to get the door open. Kalasandr immediately got out his lock picks and set to work. Unfortunately, the party’s attention was brought back to the door ten minutes later by a sharp “ping”!

(Judges note: I've been allowing multiple Open Locks attempts, with each one taking a Turn. A roll of 1 on the Throw results in broken picks)

A small shaft of metal tumbled away through the air, as Kalasandr had managed to break his picks inside the lock. There was nothing for it but to hack the door down, and Waevryn set to with her axes while Kalasandr went off the check the large building or buildings in the north-east corner of the compound (and hide his shame).

The large building had four doors on its south wall, all shut, and no signs of activity. The thief headed back to join the rest of the party as they managed to hack open the doors and enter the strange building. Inside was a large, high-ceilinged chamber, dominated by a carved statue like the one they had seen in a clearing previously. This one was much larger, towering some 12 feet above the floor of the room, and had purple gemstones in its eye-sockets. Arrayed around the perimeter of the room were twelve wooden doors, all shut. The party spread out to examine the place, and as Caasi moved to listen at one of the doors, Kalasandr began to climb the statue to relieve it of its precious eyes.

As Kalasandr touched the statue, every one of the dozen doors inside the room slammed open with a “boom!” and a dozen Skeletons rushed forward to attack the shocked party! After getting over their initial shock, the party regrouped and went on the attack: Caasi called on the power of her church to turn back the undead abominations, but her efforts resulted in only two of them turning and cowering inside the small chamber from which they’d come. Mearl (played by Endithas’ player) and Argus leapt to the defence of their master, Belgarath, while the heavy infantry mercenaries closed ranks and began smashing bones. Slowly, inexorably, the part wore the undead down. When the room finally fell silent, all the undead were destroyed, and the party stood victorious (one of the mercenaries was knocked down, his two front teeth smashed out). A thorough search of the “tomb” revealed a dark dagger that Kalasandr tucked into his belt, and the two fist-sized amethyst gems from the statue’s eye-sockets.

Deciding they were understrength and would need to get treatment for their poisoned comrades, the party built makeshift litters and left the grounds of the Ruined Monastery. However, instead of heading directly back to the river, Belgarath sent Stikini to notify their ferryman, sending the mercenaries, led by Kalasandr, back across the river while the rest of the party visited the two mysterious old women. The mercenaries were attacked by a small flock of Stirges on the trip, but handily defeated them, crossing the river without further incident.

Back at the quaint cottage, the dark dagger was identified as being enchanted, with some sort of necromantic past, and Endithas Wolfram and Erasmus were given herbal tea that seemed to cure the wracking nausea they were afflicted with. Belgarath offered to trade centipede poison with the two women, and they agreed to consider a deal once he returned with the poison in hand. With that, the remainder of the group made the uneventful journey back to Guido’s Fort

bobloblah
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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Roast Goblin with All the Trimmings

Session 6, The Hill

Sitting around the Lion’s Den, several PCs discussed their next attempt on The Hill. They had discovered the location of the Ruined Monastery, and believed that the local Hobgoblins and Goblins were using it as a base of operations.

“I managed to find some military oil in Kelvin…” Kalasandr began, his pack stuffed and festooned with flasks presumably containing the flammable liquid. Kane’s eyes narrowed, and he and Caasi shuffled away around the table as Kalasandr leaned in to study the map by the light of a burning candle.

“…and I think we should hit the monastery again!” Kalasandr finished, seemingly oblivious to the others’ discomfort with his proximity to open flame.

“I believe we should move in to the Monastery…” Belgarath stated in a matter-of-fact tone.

“We need to secure the area first!” Kane interjected; it was the first time the others had heard him discuss anything other than finding an animal, though none of them were quite sure what he wanted an animal for…

“…but…it’s free!” opined Belgarath.

“I agree with Belgarath, actually…” ventured Kalasandr, somewhat apologetically, “It’s long term, but there’s already a structure, and it’s close to the witches, who’ve been good to us.”

Kane glowered, “And I suppose you want to call it Castle Anthrax, too…?”

“There’s something else I should tell you…” Belgarath interrupted, “My familiar, Stikini, has had a vision!”

“What, your owl? Your owl had a daydream?” Caasi asked, incredulous.

“No!” shouted Belgarath, “He has had a premonition! In his dreams, he saw-”

“So, it was a dream?” Caasi shot back.

Belgarath glared at her before continuing, “He saw a legion of men, women, and children, naked, bound in chains, being led on an endless march!” he finished, dramatically. An awkward silence followed.

Caasi was the one to break the silence, “So… he dreams of naked people?”

Belgarath grimaced, then let out an exasperated breath, “It is a sign. Obviously, those chained are slaves, and we must discover what is being done with them.” The rest of the group exchanged slightly puzzled looks…

“Ooookayy…if that’s what you say, sure!” Caasi attempted a more conciliatory tone, “Look, you can keep your eyes open for them.”

Belgarath was the one to suddenly look uncomfortable, “Well…uhhh…I will… I mean, I would, but…uhhh…I’m…uhhh…not coming.”

“What?!” the others shouted in unison.

“Well, I’ve bought a house, and I really need to clean up the place, plus I have some dead centipedes I’ve been working on, and I just started an animal husbandry business…” Belgarath trailed off, the rest of the party staring at him, non-plussed. Belgarath cleared his throat, “See you soon?”

11th of Klarmont, AC 999
Characters: Caasi (Cleric 1), Fodora (Caasi’s henchman), Kalasandr (Thief 2), Waevryn (Kalasandr’s henchman), Kane (Elven Ranger 1), 3 hunting dogs (belonging to Kane), 5 Heavy Infantry and 7 Bowmen employed as Mercenaries by the party for a term of 1 month
Deaths: None!
Mortal Wounds: One of the bowmen suffered a damaged knee due to a Hobgoblin spear, and Waevryn had her legs slashed again, necessitating the use of crutches
Leveled: None!

The party set out from Guido’s Fort, taking several hours to make the multiple crossings necessary to ferry their veritable army to The Hill, landing at the southern clearing. Kane scouted ahead as they made their way, single file, to the far waterfall by the cliff, while avoiding the giant-bee hive.

As they approached the waterfall, Kane moved well ahead of the main group, and stealthily approached the clearing. Two figures stood watch, and one of them spotted the furtive elf. As the figures turned and fled, Kane loosed an arrow, attempting to prevent them from escaping, but missed. He quickly moved back and retrieved the rest of the party.

The PCs’ group filed into the clearing, and set up a battle line, with the heavy infantry at the front, and a line of archers, including Kane and Fodora, behind their makeshift mantlets (crudely built between forays, neither as good, nor as portable as the real thing) near the waterfall. The party had barely set themselves when a horde of Goblins and Hobgoblins charged into the clearing from the treeline opposite the waterfall! As the humanoids sprinted across the open area, the party’s archery took its toll, with many of them never reaching mêlée. Several Goblins broke off and charged the archers, while the remanding Hobgoblins attacked the main line. One of the bowmen was hacked down, as were Waevryn (whose legs were slashed, again) and Caasi (who, thankfully, was knocked down without serious injury). As before, Kane’s archery and the weight of the heavy infantry took its toll, and the humanoids’ Morale held, only for them to be cut down to a man (goblin?) after a few moments more.

The party tended to their wounded but realised that, while no one had been killed, they had suffered a number of injuries, and undoubtedly needed healing. The question now was whether or not to press on and rest in the outbuildings of the monastery where they had stayed previously, or to double-back and spend the night with the “witches” where they could receive more extensive healing. Their slow movement due to hauling their mantlets meant that, either way, they would not reach their destination before nightfall. (At this point the PCs had not yet discovered the waterfall connected to the Hobgoblin Camp via a short stroll through the trees, which was less than an hour from the quaint cottage of the witches.)

Setting off on the more circuitous route, the party spent the next several hours racing the setting sun. They lost the race a mere hour from their destination, but as full darkness settled on them, the infantry near the front of the line heard the sound of something large moving through the undergrowth in the pitch blackness beyond the light of their torches. They were followed in this fashion for a few moments before a vaguely humanoid shape came hissing out of the darkness near the front of the line. The heavy infantry set to, but one of them was felled almost immediately, as one scratch from the thing’s claws sent the man tumbling to the ground in a heap, paralyzed or dead, but, either way, unable to move or fight. The men now fought desperately, but within seconds, two more of the heavy infantry lay sprawled in the dirt, unmoving. Worse still, the wounds inflicted on the creature closed before the party's eyes.

The PCs began to panic as their meatshield began to dissolve. Kalasandr shouted for military oil, and one of the archers came forward while the heavy infantry pushed the thing back on the point of their spears. The flaming oil was directly on target, and the thing in the dark let out a horrifying shriek as it went up. Unsure of how tough it might be, another flask of oil was thrown, and in the end the creature was reduced to ash.

“Must’ve been a ghoul…” Kane remarked, seemingly unperturbed by the horrifying spectacle.

The infantry were tended to, and it was discovered that they were merely paralyzed. Crude litters were made from branches, and the group made the best possible time to the cottage. When they arrived, the sisters took them in, providing them rooms for the night, as well as healing. The next day, the party decided to purchase information from the strange women, negotiating a price of 60 gp, down from 100 gp. They were told that The Hobgoblin King resided below the monastery in its dungeons, and that the Goblins in his service laired in the overgrown remains of what were once the monastery’s gardens. They were also told to avoid the cemetery at the north end of the Blighted Clearing, as it was unhallowed ground, and home to the hungry dead.

At this point the sisters made another, far more tempting offer: they would provide potions of Healing and Invisibility, as well as both a Clerical and Mage scroll to the party. Their price was the first pick of whatever the party recovered from the dungeons below the monastery. After much debate, the deal was agreed to, and the group left to head for the monastery.

After a quick debate over timing, it was decided that the party couldn’t afford to leave potential enemies behind them as they headed for the monastery, and a detour was made to the Hobgoblin Camp to make sure it hadn’t been re-manned. As it turned out, the camp was deserted, but had obviously been re-occupied since the party had last cleared it, perhaps quite recently. Kane noted that many tracks led out the far end of the clearing along the shore of the lake, and it was decided that the party would follow them and attempt and to ambush the humanoids from the rear.

The party headed into the woods where a small stream emptied from the far end of the lake. A few dozen yards further and they discovered themselves in another, now-familiar clearing: the site of their battle by the waterfall from the previous day! Realising it was actually the garrison of the Hobgoblin Camp that they had defeated the day before, they immediately set out for the Monastery. The new shortcut they had discovered would save them several hours travel during future forays on The Hill.

The remaining trek to the Monastery was uneventful, and the group carefully approached the ruined walls of the Monastery unobserved. Manoeuvring to the northern-most breach in the compound’s western wall, the archers were positioned behind their makeshift mantlets, covering the approach from within the Monastery grounds. The infantry were kept slightly back in reserve, with the party largely stationed between the two groups of mercenaries. Moving slightly farther north along the compound’s overgrown outer wall, the group began hurling lit flasks of military oil over the wall into the tangled brambles they had been told by the sisters were the lair of the Goblins loyal to the Hobgoblin King. The dry growth immediately leapt into flame, and within moments Goblins began coming out of the far end of the bramble patch, looking for the source of the blaze. The party’s archers immediately began raining arrows down on the stunned humanoids, the first few quickly falling. The party’s crude mantlets meant the Goblins’ own sporadic missile file had virtually no chance of striking the archers in return, and for a moment the party was sure the fight would be a slaughter.

As more and more Goblins poured from their lair, the party’s mercenaries came under more fire. At the same time, many of the Goblins turned and fled towards the main buildings of the Monastery, entering the large set of carved double-doors in the western end of the buildings. Realising their quarry was escaping, Kane led the infantry around the northern side of the Monastery compound, and had the men mount the crumbled and overgrown wall to throw flaming oil into the exits the Goblins were using to flee their lair. With fire raging on the western end of the bramble patch, and new flames now blocking the exits to the east, terrible inhuman screams were soon heard from within the briars, as the remaining Goblins realised they were trapped.

With their remaining fellows trapped and burning alive, and human mercenaries advancing behind mantlets into the Monastery grounds, the remaining Goblins finally broke and headed en-masse through the double-doors guarding the entrance. After the last of them had fled, Caasi bravely followed. The doors themselves were heavy oak, and carved with images of the pagan deity they had now seen depicted numerous times around The Hill. Inside the building was a huge hall, unlit, with a high ceiling supported by five enormous columns, each carved into a likeness of Orcus, supporting the roof on upraised arms. The hall was otherwise empty, with no sign of either the fleeing Goblins, or any exits they might have used to escape. Caasi turned and headed back outside to inform the rest of the group.

With so many of their enemies unaccounted for, as well as presumably the Hobgoblins themselves, the group decided their foray was a success, and that it was time to withdraw before a counter-attack could be launched. With smoke and the lingering scent of cooked meat in the air, the party headed back to Guido’s Fort. They had cleared the Hobgoblin Camp that protected the route to the Ruined Monastery and smashed the Goblins’ lair, all without suffering a single casualty!

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Belgarath and Caasi's conversation could have arisen from my own players. Awesome. Particularly the grim prophecy followed by the announcement that he wouldn't be going.

bobloblah
Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters Contributor
Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Those two are actually hilarious when they get at each other in person.

I think my favorite moment in this session was when the light bulb went on that the waterfall was like 150 yards from the hobgoblin encampment (working this out cut hours from several of their regular treks). I've been using an electronic tool to run my sessions recently, and you just don't get these kinds of moments if you don't have someone manually mapping.

bobloblah
Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters Contributor
Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Belgarath
Mage 1
Lawful

Str 9
Int 18
Wis 11
Dex 5
Con 15
Cha 12

AC -2 (Dex)
hp 5

Darts, dagger

Repertoire: Hold Portal, Light, Magic Missile, Ventriloquism

Proficiencies: Animal Husbandry 3, Bargaining, Familiar

Stikini, owl familiar (Collegiate Wizardry, Lip Reading, Navigation, Tracking)

2 War Dogs

Caasi
Cleric 1
Lawful

Str 11
Int 11
Wis 16
Dex 9
Con 7
Cha 6

AC 7 (shield and plate)
hp 5

Mace, sling

Proficiencies: Healing, Lay on Hands

Endithas Wolfram
Fighter 1
Lawful

Str 17
Int 9
Wis 9
Dex 13
Con 13
Cha 12

AC 6 (Dex, banded plate)
hp 9

Two-handed sword, longbow

Proficiencies: Riding, Weapon Focus (Two-handed Sword)

Kalasandr
Thief 2
Neutral

Str 11
Int 9
Wis 9
Dex 13
Con 11
Cha 12

AC 3 (Dex, leather)
hp 8

Black Scimitar +1 & dagger, crossbow

Proficiencies: Mapping, Trapfinding

Kane
Elven Ranger 1

Str 13
Int 9
Wis 9
Dex 17
Con 9
Cha 9

AC 6 (Dex, chainmail)
hp 6

Composite bow, spear or spear & dagger, net

Proficiencies: Ambush, Tracking

bobloblah
Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters Contributor
Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Hunting the Hobgoblin King

Assault on Precin-I mean, the Ruined Monastery!

Session 7, The Hill

“It seems we are alone…” Belgarath said speaking to Kane, the only other full party-member present.

Belgarath and Kane stood in the common room of the Lion’s Den, considering their options… the group had returned yesterday from their previous foray, and felt they had struck a serious blow against the humanoids. The lair of the Goblins on The Hill had been destroyed in a conflagration of flame, with many of their number falling to the arrows of the party’s mercenaries. The group had withdrawn before they could be counter-attacked, and hadn’t suffered a single casualty, or even any injuries. While all had agreed to make another foray immediately, only the two of them had arrived to make the trip. Even Kalasandr, who had seemed hellbent on hunting down the Hobgoblin King, had not arrived. If they were to cross the river this day, they would need to leave soon.

After a few moments, Belgarath spoke, “We assault the Monastery!” his mien was firm, brooking no argument. Kane offered none, his steady gaze locked on the mage, though he spoke not a word. Belgarath’s loyal man, Mearl, stood at his shoulder, and broke the awkward silence, “Will Ivana’s guardsmen be accompanying us?”

“Yes!” Belgarath said, thinking of the gold that had been spent on the mercenaries, and how many animals he would have to husband to cover another month…the men were employed for another fortnight, at least, “...we haven’t the numbers, otherwise,” he finished.

Kane silently nodded his acceptance, then finally spoke from beneath the hood of his cloak, “At last we will reveal ourselves to the Hobgoblins. At last we will have our revenge!”

Belgarath wondered, and not for the first time, what drove this weird, laconic elf. Why couldn’t he just be happy with a little profit, like regular folk?

12th of Klarmont, AC 999
Characters: Belgarath (Mage 1), Mearl (Belgarath’s henchman), Argus and Cerberus (Belgarath’s wardogs), Kane (Elven Ranger 1), 3 hunting dogs and 1 unnamed wardog (belonging to Kane), 5 Heavy Infantry and 7 Bowmen employed as Mercenaries by the party for a term of 1 month, and, slightly later, Kalasandr (Thief 2).
Mortal Wounds: 1 Bowman lost an eye down a Giant Rat’s gullet, another was slashed across the eyes, and an Infantryman suffered several sucking chest wounds at the point of a Hobgoblin’s sword; Mearl was smashed flat by an Ogre, and suffered damage to his hips and back, which now ache incessantly.
Deaths: None!
Levelled: None!

The trip across The Hill to the Ruined Monastery was uneventful, with the large group arriving past mid-day. Belgarath’s owl familiar, Stikini, scouted the site from the air, informing her master that a number of small humanoids, presumably Goblins, were guarding the breaches in the remains of the low wall that surrounded the monastery grounds. None of the humanoids were visible from where the party stood on the edge of the dead forest, suggesting they hoped to ambush the group.

The party began scouting around the perimeter of the ruined wall, trying to remain out of sight amongst the trees. As they passed around to the western side of the Monastery, they saw there was a previously unnoticed breach. The hole appeared to be not just through the outer wall, but the wall of the buildings in the north-west corner of the grounds. They had not previously explored these, and Stikini was again sent forward as a scout. She returned to report that all she had seen was a tasty looking, if rather large, rat, perched upon the rubble near the opening.

Kane crept forward and slipped through the breach. The room beyond was the ruined remains of a large kitchen. A scuttling and squeaking commotion drew the elven ranger’s attention back to the opening, and he found himself faced with a rat the size of a small dog. The vermin stood on its haunches and hissed at him, before the elf unceremoniously slashed its throat with his dagger. Assuming the large, nest-like mound of debris near the hole meant that there were more rats about, Kane withdrew back to the treeline.

Rations were plundered, and a wheel of cheese was tossed into the rubble near the breach in the wall. The party didn’t have to wait long before half-a-dozen of the enormous rats came to investigate the pungent smell. Several of them hissed and nipped at each other, trying to drive each other away from the delicious-smelling prize. A volley of arrows and bolts from the party made short work of the rats, and their bodies were hidden in the brush out of sight of the walls. The group then advanced through the crumbling hole into the Monastery.

Judge's note: I hemmed and hawed for some time about this, but in the end I decided the mercenaries would accompany the party into the surface buildings of the Ruined Monastery (not that different from clearing buildings or plundering a city) with a little cajoling, but their Morale would be reduced. Under no circumstances would they accompany the party below ground.

As the group examined the detritus in the room, more rats burst from their nest and attacked the intruders in their lair. The fight was a close-fought affair, with a Bowman being borne down under several rats. By the time the last of the huge rodents were killed and pulled off the poor man, one of his eyes was missing, swallowed down one of the rats gullets.

***

In the meantime, outside the building, Kalasandr spotted the bodies of huge rats, pierced by arrows, amongst the trees. He had pursued the party, not more than an hour behind them, all the way to the Monastery. Seeing the fletching of his companions’ arrows, he slipped across the open ground between the dead trees and the monastery walls, then cautiously picked his way over the rubble and through the breach in the wall…

***

The party was startled to see a human climb through the hole in the wall, but, to their relief, immediately recognized the man as one of their own.

“Better late than never, I suppose…” Belgarath admonished him.

“Yes. And now we find the Hobgoblin King and destroy him!” Kalasandr said, puffing slightly. He was out of breath, having run to catch the others. It was a bit unusual for the rogue to be so hellbent on a fight, but they had been hunting the lair of the Hobgoblin King across The Hill for weeks.

Turning to Belgarath, Kane asked, “Are you going to go through that?” referring to the pile of rotten garbage and cucumber-sized rat droppings that appeared to be the nest of the Giant Rats.

“What?!” said Belgarath, horrified.

“You shoved your hands in bat dung… what is the difference?” Kane retorted. The mage turned decidedly green, so Kane performed the foul deed, discovering a handful of coins, gems, and a beautifully crafted arrow.

Kane then pressed his ear to the only door leading from the room and heard nothing. Kalasandr followed suit with no more success than the elf. They tried the door, only to find it stuck. One of the infantrymen threw his shoulder into it, and the door whipped open with a loud “boom!” as it struck the wall at the end of its travel.

“I wonder if anyone heard that…” Kane asked without a hint of sarcasm.

The party moved into the darkened room beyond, lighting torches and a lantern. The room contained ancient tables and benches, all now covered in a thick layer of mold. The ceiling here had clearly begun to leak long ago, and plaster had crumbled from the ceiling and littered the floor.

While the water might have been the source of the ordinary-seeming mold, everyone studiously avoided touching the stuff, and moved to a door in the northern end of the room. After hearing nothing, the party attempted to open the door, and discovered it was both stuck, and opened in the opposite direction, meaning it couldn’t be battered open.

A scheme involving ropes under the door was quickly devised, and the door hauled open, although it was slower and no less noisy than simply hacking through the door with an axe. The room beyond was circumscribed by wall shelves, and Belgarath virtually stumbled over the others in his haste to search the shelves for forgotten lore. Unfortunately, the ceiling here had also leaked, and whatever wealth of books the former library had once held crumbled to dirt beneath his fingers. Kalasandr moved past the hyperventilating mage to search the far end of the room while Kane listened at the only other door, hearing running water.

“Hunh. What’s this?” Kalasandr asked from the far end of the room, holding an ornate, ivory scroll case aloft.

“What?!” Belgarath nearly shouted, the crumbling remains of ancient books sifting through his fingers. The despair in his expression was impossible to miss.

The case was opened and passed around for examination, with neither the thief nor the mage able to identify the writing. Kalasandr pocketed the case as they turned to the only apparent exit from the library. Opening the door carefully, they discovered an open air courtyard, with a fountain and pool the source of the sound of running water. The last rays of the sun dimly lit the sky, and a gentle breeze rustled the leaves of a handful of ancient birch trees overhanging the pool. A quick search revealed no other exits, and nothing extraordinary about the fountain or the pool. As they stood by the door discussing their next move, the sharp, elven eyes of Kane noted a thin, rectangular gap in the stonework next to the only door. After poking and prodding about, a pivoting secret door was discovered, with a darkened hall beyond.

Closing the secret door, the party decided to rest in the courtyard, as one entrance was secret, and the other led to now-empty rooms. They kept watch and burned no fire, and the night passed uneventfully. Gathering themselves the next morning, the party made ready to head through the secret door.

A short way beyond the darkened doorway, a door stood on the right. A quick listen revealed voices speaking a dark tongue that Kane knew all to well from the Dymrak: Hobgoblins! Kalasandr quickly scouted along the passage, which branched ahead, and found no other immediate threats. The group set for battle, with a plan to draw the Hobgoblins out of the room into the arrows and flaming oil of the party. They readied two battle lines, one at the nearby T-junction, the other near the secret entrance to the hallway. A lantern was on the floor outside the door from which the voices came.

When all was ready, Kalasandr pounded on the door with the hilt of his sword, then sprinted back to join the others. A Hobgoblin opened the door, and with a shout behind to his compatriots, warily approached the lantern sitting on the floor… as the party sprung their ambush! Arrows and bolts flew from the darkness, with the first Hobgoblin to exit the room badly injured. Goblins and Hobgoblins began pouring from the guardroom, turning to defend themselves from their attackers. A savage mêlée ensued, the Hobgoblins cutting down one of the Infantry, and screeching Goblins dragging down one of the Bowmen. Flaming oil was used to block the guardroom door, spreading out the humanoid attackers. Kane’s hideously accurate archery once again began to take its toll, as the recently reequipped Mearl proved nearly untouchable to the humanoids’ weapons. The Goblins managed to fell another Bowman before being skewered on the point of Mearl’s spear, and the last of the foul Goblins died defending the guardroom (with a Morale check of 12!).

The battle over, the party took stock of the wounded, discovering one Bowman blinded in one eye and in poor shape from a head wound, but the other merely in shock. The Infantryman was more seriously injured, unable to walk, and with a punctured lung that rendered him useless. The Mercenaries were demoralized, and took convincing to keep them from leaving for the dubious safety beyond the Monastery’s walls. The guardroom was searched, yielding a few coins and two keys held by the largest Hobgoblin, a champion of his kind, along with a door leading to the landing of a staircase descending deep beneath the earth. It became clear that none of the Mercenaries would have any part of descending into the unknown, and it was decided that clearing the surface buildings of enemies while they still had the Mercenaries’ support was the best course of action. Before leaving the guardroom, the handle of the door to the stairs was trapped, a sharpened burr filed into the handle by Kalasandr, and laced with the centipede poison Belgarath had extracted.

Moving more cautiously now, the party headed back to the nearby T-junction, discovering another secret entrance, this one leading into the enormous chamber supported by pillars carved in the shape of Orcus that they had found their way into after torching the Goblins’ lair in the courtyard. Finding it empty, they returned to the T-junction and took the other branch, passing a corridor to the left before arriving at a dead end. A search for secret doors yielded nothing, and the group doubled back to the corridor they had passed. This ended in a pair of doors, and Kalasandr and Kane could hear raucous, deep voices in an inhuman tongue on the other side of the one at the end of the hall.

Once again the party prepared an ambush at another nearby T-junction, military oil spread in the corridor between them and the door. Kalasandr bravely cracked the door and peeked inside. Occupying the room were two of the largest, ugliest Ogres to inhabit The Hill, oblivious to Kalasandr’s eavesdropping. Gaining his courage, the thief drew his bow and fired a shot at the nearest Ogre! He cursed as he realised he had missed, the arrow shattering against the far wall. The Ogres looked up from their drinking and arguing, but, seeing nothing, returned to their gambling. Once again, Kalasandr quietly pushed the door just wide enough to fire an arrow, again missing! This time the Ogres stood from their revelry, searching for the source of the cracking noise. As the larger of the two lifted the broken remains of Kalasandr’s arrow, the thief attempted a final shot, burying an arrow in the back of the smaller Ogre!

Roaring in pain to his companion, the Ogre turned in time to see Kalasandr ducking out of the door. The hall behind the thief shook as the two beasts charged after him – straight into the missile fire of the party and their Mercenaries. The first Ogre was felled by the party’s concentrated attacks and flaming oil, but the second, larger brute charged up the corridor. The wardogs were loosed against the thing, as Mearl moved forward to hold the hallway. He managed to stab the beast with his spear, but then, howling in rage at the dogs’ attacks, the mighty Ogre brought his club down on Mearl’s head, smashing Belgarath’s loyal manservant flat with a single blow! The brutal attack was its last, as the wardogs lunged in and bore the beast down beneath their slavering jaws.

With the Ogres dead, the relieved party quickly searched the room, discovering a stash of coins, and an old, flea-infested sack they tossed aside. It was then that they heard noises from the only other door. Bracing for further battle, the party unbarred and opened the door, only to discover four unarmed and primitive hominids. It was quickly ascertained that no language was shared between the party and these beings, and a few tense moments were spent creating inventive gestures and pantomime before it was decided they were friend, or at least not hostile. The Neanderthals were grateful for their release from their Ogre captors, and left with the party.

The remaining room near this end of the buildings was searched and found empty, so the party headed back to the far side of the complex to the unexplored branch of the first T-junction they had come to after entering via the secret door. They moved along the corridor to the end, assuming (incorrectly) that all the doors on their left led to the outside (they had previously noted multiple doors in the exterior southern wall of the main monastery buildings). The door at the end of the corridor was locked, and the party discovered it opened with the key they had taken from Hobgoblin champion killed in the guardroom. The room beyond was unexpected, both in its contents and shape. Filled with supplies, including food, weapons, and armour, and extending past where the party believed the outside of the monastery to be. The supplies were enough for an army, and they looted what they thought were the most valuable items, and equipped the Neanderthals with leather armour and spears.

Re-locking the storeroom behind them (and leaving the supplies to the Hobgoblin army), they began checking the remaining doors in the corridor, knowing from the dimensions of the storeroom they did not lead to the outside.

The first of these was stuck, and, when battered open, led to an unused chamber. The second led to a shrine to Orcus, and the entire party felt immediately uncomfortable upon entering the room, with air temperature noticeably colder than the hallway. The dogs began to whine and pace, with the Mercenaries and Neanderthals become restive and unwilling to wait in the chamber. A massive statue to He Who Shall Not Be Named dominated the room, with a shallow trough the size of body built in to the floor before it. Old stains marked the floor of the trough, and the party waited in uneasy silence as Kalasandr climbed the statue and removed the large amethyst gems set into its eye sockets. A collective sigh of relief echoed through the chamber when the thief prised the gems free without incident, and the entire group moved back to the hallway.

With no apparent areas missed on their map, the party finally decided to retreat from the Monastery, and made their way to the home of the elderly sisters. The rescued Neanderthals headed off through the far end of the clearing, presumably to rejoin their own kind. The party spent the night, healing and resting, and in the morning received Rosalinda’s aid in identifying the nature the shield they had taken from the Hobgoblin champion: an enchanted, round, wooden shield +1 emblazoned with the symbol of the Callarii elves. Saying their goodbyes to the sisters, they made the uneventful trip back across the river to Guido’s Fort…

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Darth Kane is now my favorite player character.

bobloblah
Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters Contributor
Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

The Quest for XP

Or:...allllmost there!

Session 8, The Hill

One of our less successful sessions, at least in terms of play time, we nevertheless had a good time. We had originally been scheduled to play on the 9th, but a bad bout of influenza pushed the date back. Still, Belgarath's player provided a gourmet dinner of anise salad with pine nuts and lemon vinaigrette dressing, followed by lightly sauteed vegetables in olive oil over pasta. Then it was time to go shopping in Kelvin and Specularum! Gee, how exciting.

Belgarath was also desperate for every point of XP he could scrounge, trying to use his Animal Husbandry business income, and the sale of everything that wasn’t nailed down (including stuff that others had found that magically appeared on his character sheet), in an attempt to make Level 2 before we started playing (he was about 300 XP short from the last session).

In the end, we played for a grand total of about 20 minutes (okay, I’m exaggerating, but not by much), with most of our time being taken up by housekeeping activities. Oh, and I drank far too much mead.

________________________________________________________________________________

With all the disparate party members present around the table in the Lion’s Den with the carved map, plans were laid. Expenses were mounting, and a significant amount of treasure hadn’t been found in some time…

The party had lost the services of their Mercenaries, with Ivana balking at the mounting injuries crippling her guardsmen, as well as talk of the party heading into a dungeon below the Ruined Monastery. With all of their Henchmen, they were still a sizeable contingent, but would still need to be more cautious.

“I have some other items I’d like to sell…” Belgarath began, “…some scrolls, two potions, a shield…”

“Wait, how do you have those?” Kalasandr interjected, “We received those when we made a bargain with the witches, and you weren’t even there! You were…husbanding animals, or something.”

Belgarath looked non-plussed, “Well, no one else was using them, as they didn’t even come with us last time, and-”

“But how did you get that stuff?” Kalasandr asked again, looking increasingly perplexed.

“I do not think we should sell them. They make us more powerful!” It was one of the first times Endithas had ventured an opinion, mostly by dint of seldom being present. He seemed to constantly be complaining of pain in his back and legs. Maybe it was because he was so old? Or at least he looked that way to his far younger companions.

“One of those scrolls is Clerical,” Caasi began, “…actually, two of them, if you include the one Kalasandr found in that ivory case…”

“Yesss! The ivory scroll-case! We could sell that, too!” said Belgarath, an avaricious gleam in his eye.

“Why are you so desperate?” Kane asked. The question was ironic, considering the taciturn elf had spoken of nothing but finding an animal “companion” (whatever that meant) for the first while the others had known him.

“I am… on the precipice!” stated Belgarath with all the gravitas he could muster. The small amount of foam speckling his lips detracted from his desired effect.

Kalasandr looked around at the others, hoping someone else understood what the mage was talking about, “Of…what? Madness?”

“POWER!” Belgarath shouted, far too loudly. Several of the other patrons in the sleepy tavern looked up from their ale. Chagrined, he spoke more softly, “I mean, power. I feel I am on the verge of a breakthrough.”

“Then… why do you need money? And by selling our stuff, no less?” Caasi asked, genuinely confused.

The mage looked about at his companions, “You wouldn’t understand!” he said simply, before falling into a brooding, sulking silence.

“Right!” said Kalasandr, trying to get their deliberations back on track, “I think we should head back to Kelvin, try and pick up some more help, maybe some more military oil to replace what we’ve used.” Several other party members nodded their approval. “And if we need money…” he continued, “…there’s always that necro-whatsit dagger we found. Nobody has been using it. Maybe we can sell that?”

15th of Klarmont to the 14th of Felmont, AC 999

Characters: Belgarath (Mage 2), Mearl (Belgarath’s very loyal Henchman), Argus and Cerberus (Belgarath’s wardogs), Caasi (Cleric 2), Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman and body servant), Endithas Wolfram (Fighter 2), Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr (Thief 4), Solla (Kalasandr’s Henchman), Kane (Elven Ranger 2), 1 wardog and 3 hunting dogs (belonging to Kane), and a partridge in a pear tree.

Mortal Wounds: None

Deaths: None

Leveled: Every PC!

Belgarath negotiated the sale to Ivana of the crossbows the party had looted from the Hobgoblin stores, and the gems taken from the profane idol. The sale netted them a small amount of gold, and pushed Belgarath that much closer to 2nd Level. He also informed her that they had found a large amount of supplies, enough for a small army; Ivana was less than pleased that these had been left behind (which may have contributed to her decision to deny them further use of her guardsmen). The party then headed out for Kelvin a day after returning from The Hill.

Spring was giving way to summer, and the fields near Kelvin were a beehive of activity. Upon reaching the city, more military oil was secured (nearly the total supply in the city), and Caasi was again healed at the Church of Karameikos for the usual 500 gp donation. Kalasandr was also busy, commissioning caltrops to be made, and hiring another Henchman (Henchwoman?), with a bright red birthmark on her left cheek, by the name of Solla. The woman appeared to be a veteran warrior, but with no actual adventuring experience.

While in Kelvin, Kalasandr also inquired with his underworld contacts about selling a few vials of centipede poison (illegal in the Grand Duchy) that Belgarath had harvested. Unbelievably, he managed to net nearly 1000 gp for the two vials! (A misread price, max die roll, and inappropriately applying Bargaining lead to the anomaly, but I decided to let it stand; someone really wanted that poison! Now the question is: what for? I'd already decided, but it would likely be a while before the party found out...)

The money from the sale of the poison pushed Belgarath over the edge, and he finally hit 2nd Level. As the party had tried, unsuccessfully, to sell the necromantic dagger they had found in a tomb beside the Ruined Monastery, a decision was made to head to the capital, Specularum. It was nearly a week’s travel, but there was hope of finding a buyer for the magical blade, and allowing Belgarath to visit his master to learn a new spell.

The trip itself was uneventful, but once there a buyer for the dagger couldn’t be found (there was only a small chance for such an expensive item)! However, when Belgarath met his mentor, Teldon, he spoke openly of their attempts to sell the magical blade, and their inability to do so. His master examined the dagger and immediately offered the princely sum of 12,000 gp! Belgarath nearly fainted, but upon regaining his composure, began to haggle with his master, eager to milk all he could from the transaction. Teldon put his young student firmly in his place, and informed Belgarath that, while the dagger was probably worth more than he was offering, there would be no other buyer, and Teldon could not offer more. Belgarath the Miser finally relented, and at the end of the week left his master’s tower with more gold than he had ever seen in his life, and the new spell Unseen Servant added to his repertoire (I had previously created Belgarath's master, including his spellbook, and anything Belgarath was taught would come from this).

The party rejoiced at their windfall, and a flurry of buying ensued. Out of character, every PC also levelled, and a considerable amount of time was spent rolling for new hp, and updating character sheets to reflect the various benefits that 2nd Level would bring (save Kalasandr, who hit 4th!). Finishing with the administration, the group headed back to Guido’s Fort.

Upon arriving at the fort, rumours reached the PCs ears of a rival party crossing the River to The Hill. They were incensed! How dare anyone else loot their treasure?! Kane immediately headed to the Lion’s Den to locate The Old Timer, and began plying the man with drinks to find out what he knew of the interlopers. It turned out a rival party, some 5 strong plus wolves, had crossed the River days before, and had not been heard from since. The party immediately made ready to depart, intent on putting a stop to whatever shenanigans these “outsiders” were up to in “their” dungeon.

After spending a couple hours to move their large group across the water, the party made an uneventful hike to the far side of The Hill. All was eerily quiet as they approached the Ruined Monastery. Strangely, no Goblin sentries stood watch, and the party was able to move to the buildings much less cautiously than before. Once inside, they made their way through corridors, courtyard, and secret door to the guardroom. Here again, they found it unoccupied and silent. Carefully avoiding their own poison, they passed through the door and descended the stairs into the dungeon below…

The stairs ran arrow-straight, traveling more than 60 feet as they ran far beneath the earth. At the bottom they ended at a T-junction, the corridor heading left and right. The party headed left, and in a few dozen feet reached another T-junction. At Caasi’s insistence they again headed left, and a few feet farther on the corridor turned right. This passage ended at door, with another passage branching to the right. The sound of roiling liquid was heard behind the door, and Kalasandr attempted to surreptitiously peek into the room, but was spotted by a pair of Goblins. The humanoids attacked the party with a shriek, and were quickly cut down. The room they had occupied was a gruesome sight, with various implements of torture scattered about the room, ready to be used. Along the far wall were four doors, each containing a barred window.

Endithas and Kane guarded the corridor while the others searched the room. Mercifully, the cells were all empty, though that didn’t explain what the Goblins had been preparing for. The humanoids’ bodies were hidden in the cells after keys to them were found hanging on the wall. Then the party headed back out into the corridor, taking the last branch they had passed.

This blank-walled corridor soon turned left, ran for fifty feet or so, turned left again, then right. Along this final stretch of hall a door was discovered a short distance before the passage ended in a second door. With no sound from either door, the room at the end of the corridor was entered first, revealing a well appointed study. The room was quickly looted of valuables, and the desk examined by Kalasandr. One of the drawers was locked, but the thief easily managed to pick it, and then opened it without checking for traps.

That choice proved nearly fatal, as a hidden needle sprung from the handle, pricking the thief with poison. Kalasandr became dizzy and felt his heart race, but after a few moments the sensation passed (made his Save vs. Poison!). Checking the previously locked drawer he discovered a bag of tiger-eye gems and a clerical scroll of Cure Light Wounds that was given to Caasi.

Meanwhile, out in the corridor, Kane and Endithas stood watch. Abruptly, a lone Hobgoblin came strolling around the corner, lantern in hand. The humanoid barely had a chance to register surprise before an arrow sprouted from its throat, and it collapsed to the floor, Endithas catching it before its lantern could smash.

The remainder of the party left the study behind, and attempted to open the only other door in the hall. It was locked, but was soon opened by Kalasandr’s deft touch. The room behind the door seemed as out of place as the study had, and it was appointed as a sumptuous sitting room, plush chairs and crystal wine glasses completing the picture. This room, too, was looted of its obvious valuables, and the dead Hobgoblin was left sitting in one of the chairs.

The party then headed back nearly to the stairs to the surface, and turned down the other branch. Kalasandr and Kane almost immediately heard noise coming from up the hall: rhythmic clanging sounds of metal on metal. Further on, a dull glow suffused the hall, emanating from a side-passage on the left. Kalasandr snuck forward, and glanced into the dimly lit passage. He found himself looking into a forge room, Hobgoblins toiling under the whip of a Bugbear taskmaster. The source of the pounding was a balding dwarven smith, a ball and chain making it clear he laboured under duress.

The thief moved back to the others, and it was decided that he would scout farther down the corridor to make certain there were no other threats nearby. Moving stealthily, Kalasandr slipped past the doorway and on down the corridor. He quickly mapped out a hundred feet or so of nearby passage, noting, in particular, a pair of ornate double doors that hopefully led to the The Hobgoblin King. He then doubled-back to rejoin the party.

As they huddled in the corridor, just out of sight of the forge, an argument broke out about how best to attack the humanoids; Belgarath simply wanted to hurl burning oil into the room, while Endithas wanted burning oil separating the party from their enemies. Everyone agreed they needed to block the door on the opposite side of the forge room with oil (though why Belgarath couldn’t cast Hold Portal once the battle had begun was anyone’s guess; the mage had a bad habit of ending adventures with his spell(s) uncast). Eventually, a Rube Goldberg-style plan was concocted, which involved Belgarath’s Unseen Servant carrying military oil, and a complex order of battle. Amazingly, the plan went off without a hitch, as the party attacked the humanoids by surprise.

The fight that followed was as quick as it was brutal, with the unarmoured Hobgoblins dropping to the party’s attacks. The dwarf turned on his captors, and managed to wound both the Bugbear and a Hobgoblin, before being grievously wounded in turn. Once the last of the opposition was defeated, the bodies were unceremoniously dumped into the forges, and Gareth the balding dwarven smith was offered both his freedom, and a chance to accompany the party to the surface, which he gladly agreed to. Kane grabbed the Bugbear’s spiked club in the hope that it was enchanted (only Cassi could cast Detect Magic, and she had already used her slot for the day keeping the dwarf alive). Gareth was asked if he had seen much of the rest of the dungeon, but, strangely, the questioning went no further. It was nevertheless clear that the humanoids were forging weapons and armour in quantities sufficient to outfit an army.

With 2am fast approaching in the real world, it was decided that the party would withdraw, and they made the trip back to Guido’s Fort without incident. Back at the fort, a hole was dug in the dirt floor of Belgarath’s cottage, and a locked chest was buried containing several magic items, with the understanding that any of the companions could access them.

bobloblah
Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters Contributor
Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Hunt Through the Dark

...or how do you solve a problem like the King?

Session 9, The Hill

Belgarath, Kalasandr, and Kane moved at a leisurely pace along the Duke’s Road, the hike to Kelvin a refreshing break from the dank dungeons beneath The Hill. All carried a small fortune in coin, as they had recently managed to sell a valuable find, in the form of a powerfully enchanted dagger. It was irksome that they would never know what magic it had held, but it was hard to argue with the mountain of gold it had earned them.

“Look, I’m not saying one does not simply walk in to the Monastery, I’m just saying it’s not that simple…” Kalasandr said, panting with the exertion of dragging Waevryn’s litter. This was the second time he would try to pay the Patriarch of Kelvin to restore the vitality in her legs. His dedication to her was singular.

Kane sneered slightly in the thief’s direction, “Ah. And next we shall hear how one simply does not leave the donjon without an enlarged-”

“Hunh?” grunted Gareth, wondering where the elf to whom he owed blood-debt was going with that remark.

“I-” Belgarath attempted to interject, but the other two were having none of it.

“Oh, here we go! Brace yourselves…” pant, pant, “…the elf’s going to say something clever.”

“Starting a duel of the wits with a master of wit?” the elf replied. That one raised even Belgarath’s eyebrows, “You do not know the tiny limits of your own mental capacity!” declared Kane without even a hint of irony. The banter continued until the sun sank low, and while Belgarath had thought the two might come to blows, they ended the evening singing drinking songs by the fire over a wineskin of mead.

“The idiots!” thought the mage for at least the tenth time that day. He was greatly relieved that neither he, nor his trusted man, Mearl, had a sense of humour that could lead to such stupidity…

16th to the 22nd of Felmont, AC 999

Characters: Belgarath (Mage 2), Mearl (Belgarath’s Henchman), The Menagerie (Belgarath’s wardogs Argus and Cerberus, plus his owl Familiar, Stikini), Kalasandr (Thief 4), Solla and Waevryn (Kalasandr’s Henchmen), Kane (Elven Ranger 2), Gareth Ironhand (Kane’s Henchman), and 3 hunting dogs and 1 wardog belonging to Kane.

Mortal Wounds: Waevryn’s face was severely scarred by an enormous fly

Deaths: None!

Leveled: None.

Things began with the unusual move of Kane recruiting the dwarf the party had rescued from the Hobgoblins’ forge as a Henchman, even though dwarves aren’t considered animals. More shockingly, the dwarf agreed with elan once offered quality gear to replace what he had lost more than a year before. Gareth Ironhand owed Kane a blood-debt for rescuing him, poncy elf or no, and Gareth Ironhand repaid his debts!

The party then headed to Kelvin so Kalasandr could have Waevryn’s legs healed. The rogue had now spent a small fortune on the woman, though why he was so concerned with her being able to move her legs was anyone’s guess.

While in Kelvin, the party tracked down an Alchemist, one Asterius Medvedev Bogatsch, purported to be the finest in the city. From him they negotiated the purchase of a Healing Potion, discovering that buying magical goods was the flip side of making a fortune off of selling them. 500 gp later (or 1,000 gp, if you include the donation to the Church of Karameikos for Waevryn), and the party had obtained all the magical aid they were willing to pay for, and headed back to Guido’s Fort.

Upon their return, rumours again reached their ears of rival adventurers crossing the River in search of easy treasure. And, yet again, none of them seemed to have returned to the fort. Expecting to eventually run into these ne’er-do-wells, the party prepared themselves for battle, then had Boris ferry them and their complement of Henchmen over to The Hill.

The march to the Ruined Monastery was uneventful, and upon arriving mid-afternoon, they discovered the walls, courtyard, and most of the surface buildings were completely abandoned. The first they encountered any inhabitants was upon reaching the guardroom blocking the entrance to the dungeon, whereupon two Goblins promptly fled down the stairs into the depths. After a hurried argument, it was decided that party would wait on the stairs, hoping to hold the high ground against whatever enemies the Goblins would surely rouse against them…

…and waited…

…and waited…

…until, after more than ten minutes (i.e. 1 Turn spent waiting, and hence a Wandering Monster check), it became clear that the Goblins were not coming right back with reinforcements. But then, where had they gone?

Exceedingly nervous, the party inched their way down the stairs, tossing a torch to the floor at the bottom, and expecting Goblin ambush at any moment. Mearl and Gareth were pushed to the front (hey, that’s what Henchmen are for, right?), and the party descended. The blind T-junction at the bottom of the stairs was amusingly panic-inducing, but when a Goblin ambush still didn’t materialize, the party finally began to relax.

Having previously explored to the left from the bottom of the stairs (and not having Caasi present to insist on heading to the left), the party turned right, and then immediately left. The darkened corridor traveled straight with no apparent branches or doors, before ending in a lone door. As Kalasandr listened at the door, he realised he heard the sound of booted feet and guttural speech – from behind the party!

Marching order was hastily reshuffled as everyone turned to face the rear, with the dogs, all six of them, now in the party’s front. Around the corner strolled two Hobgoblins carrying a lantern, who were brought up short in shock at the sight of the party. Kane managed a hurried shot, wounding one of the Hobgoblins before they had a chance to react, and in a few more moments both lay dead on the floor. The party waited anxiously for any additional sign that they had been discovered, then returned to looting the room they had just found.

The chamber was filthy and foul-smelling, with the smoking remains of a fire dying in a large hearth. Above the coals hung a pot, with a greenish-black melange simmering away. Nearby stood a crude wooden table, along with several wooden benches and a pair of chairs. Upon the table sat several filthy, wine-stained goblets and a jug of vinegary wine. The room was about 30’ square, with another door directly across from the one they had entered through.

Kalasandr moved to the far door as the rest of the group searched the small room, and could hear a low, rumbling vibration from somewhere beyond the portal. It was rhythmic, and intermittent, though the nature of the sound was entirely unclear. An insect? Growling? A pneumatic forge? There was only one way to find out…

They opened the door and moved into the hall beyond. A couple dozen feet further, and an alcove that ended in a door opened on the left. The rhythmic rumbling was clearly coming from farther up the hall, but the party checked the side door, only to find it opened into a small cell. A quick examination yielded nothing, but Kane’s sharp elven eyesight noted something amiss with the masonry on the back wall. Poking and prodding, the party discovered a large block was loose, and with some effort, managed to remove it. Behind the wall was a crude, narrow tunnel, seemingly hand-carved with tools. Kalasandr bravely volunteered himself, and the rogue clambered into the confined space with a torch.

The tunnel wound a dozen feet, the narrow confines forcing Kalasandr to alternately clamber on hands-and-knees or bellycrawl to negotiate the passage. The far end stopped abruptly at what appeared to be another masonry block. With considerable effort, Kalasandr managed to wriggle the block into the space beyond, and then squeeze around it to peer about. The corridor the tunnel opened into seemed familiar, and, after glancing at his own map of the place, he deduced that he was near the forge where the party had freed Gareth.

Kalasandr slipped back into the tunnel, carefully replacing the block behind himself, then wriggled his way back to rejoin the party in the prison cell. It was concluded that some previous prisoner must have tunnelled to freedom. The party left the block at the back of the cell on the floor and headed back out into the corridor to find the source of the noise. A short distance farther revealed another alcove ending in a door on the left. It immediately became apparent that whatever was beyond this door was the source of the rumbling the party could hear. The door was locked, and Kalasandr quietly turned his skills on the mechanism. An audible “click!” signalled his success, and he eased the door ajar to peer into the room beyond…

Half-a-dozen large beds stood to the left of the door, and upon three of them were the hairy, sleeping forms of three Bugbears, the largest of whom was the source of what was now, clearly, inhuman snoring. Kalasandr slipped back into the hall, and the party came up with a plan: three of their number would attempt to slip into the room unnoticed, and slit the hairy beasts’ throats before they even knew the party was there! Belgarath, Kalasandr, and Kane all moved into the room, instead of just the stealthy thief, a decision that would prove most unfortunate.

While Kalasandr quietly slipped over the nearest bed and slit the throat of its occupant, Kane was much less so, and the clumsy Belgarath nearly tumbled to the floor, caught up in his own robes (rolled a surprise check for the Bugbears, modified based on Belgarath’s extreme clumsiness, and, not surprisingly, they were not Surprised; as Kalasandr had entered ahead and made his Move Silently check handily, I allowed him the Surprise Round). The sound woke the remaining two Bugbears, and the elven ranger slashed the one he had approached with his knife before it had a chance to react. The final Bugbear roared in defiance as it leapt to its feet, seizing a huge battle axe in its mangy hands. Thinking quickly, Belgarath cast Light on the eyes of the axe-wielding Bugbear, and it howled again, violently shaking its head in an attempt to clear its vision. Kane battled with the Bugbear he had already injured, as Kalasandr leapt across the beds to slash it with the Black Scimitar. Mearl charged into the room to stab the blinded Bugbear with his spear, then easily avoided its clumsy attempt to smash the haft of his weapon with its axe. Kane felled the beast in front of him with a swift thrust, then the weight of the party turned on the remaining, blinded humanoid. Swinging wildly and in vain with its battle axe, the beast finally fell to a crushing blow from Gareth’s warhammer.

As quiet settled on the room, more details of the space became apparent: 30’ on a side, with no other exits, a table and crude chairs stood in the centre of the room, the remains of a meal on the tabletop. An old, sturdy chest sat under the table. A search of the Bugbears bodies produced several keys, one of which opened the chest. Inside was an assortment of what appeared to be adventuring gear, with finely tooled leather armour, a well-kept shortsword, bow and arrows, and various other common items. Beside these sat a bag of coins, and a leather bundle containing what Kalasandr recognized as Thieves’ Tools.

Finding nothing further, the group again headed back into the hall and proceed further, once again reaching an alcove ending in a door on the left. This too was locked, but, upon trying the door, movement was heard from within. The party waited in anticipation, but the room was silent for a time. Finally, a voice called out, “Well, get on with it!” in slightly accented Thyatian. The door being locked from the outside, the group deduced that the occupant must be a prisoner, and warily unlocked the door with another of the Bugbear’s keys. Inside was a raven-haired young woman, lying on a plain wooden bench, her hands behind her head.

At the sight of the party she cocked an eyebrow, “Aren’t you a little hairless for a bugbear?”

Kalasandr immediately stepped forward, “I’m Kalasandr and I’m here to rescue you!”

“Reallllly…?” drolled the woman.

Kalasandr switched to the common street-slang used by thieves in the Duchy, noting his surprise at finding her here. The woman responded in kind, though somewhat haltingly. Satisfied, Kalasandr had a brief, whispered argument with the others, before it was decided that the gear and coins they had found would be turned back over to the woman. She quickly kitted herself, and then agreed to accompany the party temporarily as thanks for her rescue, introducing herself as Colleen DeFilch, a native of Darokin. She explained that she and four companions had traveled over the passes from the Republic in late spring, looking for adventure and easy coin. Upon reaching Guido’s Fort they heard tell that the humanoids guarding The Hill had been defeated by another group, and that the remaining treasure would be easy pickings. Much to their horror, the denizens of the Ruined Monastery were very much alive, and, worse still, were waiting for them in ambush, almost as if they had known they were coming. Their entire party was captured, and she had been separated from the others before her last sleep, all sense of time lost in the darkness.

With Colleen joining them, the group moved back into the hall, following a short distance further before it finally ended at a door. The smell of damp was in the air, and the sound of rushing water could be heard on the other side. Forcing the stuck and swollen door, the party discovered a large cavern, with a small stream running through it and draining into a hole in the floor. As they entered the room they caught site of a number of scuttling centipedes, and quickly withdrew, shutting the door behind them.

Consulting their map, it was decided to head back to the set of double-doors Kalasandr had previously scouted, in hopes of finding the hall of the Hobgoblin King. Passing several other doors, they reached the double doors without incident. They checked them carefully before discovering that they opened easily, leading to a large hall set with rows of benches. At the far end stood a massive idol of a now familiar grotesque shape, gleaming amethyst stones in its sockets.

The party entered and spread about the room as Kalasandr quickly mounted the statue and began working on prising the gems free. As he touched his crowbar to the first gem, the mouth of the statue fell open, and with a great, droning, buzzing sound, four huge flies flew out of the mouth and into the room, setting upon the party.

The flies were dispatched, but not before Colleen was badly injured, and Waevryn had her face torn apart; she would be severely scarred from her wounds. Kalasandr checked Waevryn (mostly to see if he would need to spend more on her), then, satisfied she would be able to shuffle back to the Fort with the rest of the party, went back to the idol. The party searched the rest of the room, with Kane once again spotting secret passages, this time in the south-east corner of the room. The first led into a tiny chamber with a hole in the floor, and a ladder leading down. The second, however, led into a well-appointed room. Kane stepped inside and was stunned to see a human figure, grey-skinned and hunched, sitting at a writing desk scribbling with a quill. The figure looked up, malice in his eyes, and Kane bravely ducked back out of the room to… warn the rest of the party – only to hear the opening and closing of a door from the secret chamber behind him. He looked back into the room to find it empty.

A heated argument ensued as the party debated whether to immediately pursue the fleeing figure – either through the secret door, or the double-doors in an attempt to cut the fugitive off – or to finish looting the place. They finally agreed to loot the place (in case someone else stole the phat loot they were stealing), Kalasandr working on the second amethyst gem, with the others tossing the secret study. Belgarath pocketed the papers from the desk, along with a small chest and its contents (a large cloak, a stoppered glass bottle that appeared empty, and a handful of coins).

Comfortable that they had lifted everything of value within reach (that wasn’t nailed down, and even some that was in the case of the gems), the party headed back the way they had come. When they reached the main junction, they waited for the fleeing figure. After a handful of uneventful minutes, the party headed down the main corridor in the direction they hadn’t yet explored. They passed several large, 20’ wide openings into some kind of large, unlit chamber beyond. Ignoring these, they then came to a single door on their left, with the passage ending in a second door some dozen feet further on.

Listening at the door, Kane heard the sound of Goblinoid voices. The party prepared for battle, and then Mearl tried to shove the door open with his spear, but the momentary exposure left him open and one of a volley of arrows struck him before he could duck back. He caught a momentary glimpse of upended tables forming a barricade across the room, with goblinoids crouching behind them. With a mighty yell, Gareth Ironhand charged into the room against the hated Goblins, arrows ricocheting off his plate armour. At the same time, Belgarath loosed his wardogs who ran to move around the barricades. The weaker members of the party remained in the hall, with Belgarath pulling out a Scroll of Web and considering the door on the party’s flank at the end of the hall. Should he? Perhaps he could wait?

The first pair of wardogs rounded the barricade, only to be blocked by a Hobgoblin warrior. Behind it, Goblins continued firing arrows into the room and doorway, none of them able to pierce Gareth’s considerable armour. Kane slipped into the room and moved to a corner where he could return fire against the Goblins. Belgarath’s strange decision to use neither the Web Scroll, nor a timely Hold Portal spell, to secure the door on their flank was a fateful one (it was the end of the night at this point, so there was no reason to hold back; it's meta-gamey, but unavoidably true, and Belgarath's player has a terrible habit of reaching the end of a session with spell(s) uncast, and then complaining about how useless his Mage is), as the door suddenly slammed open, the dark Cleric who had earlier fled standing behind a group of Goblins and Hobgoblins in the doorway!

Solla and an injured Mearl turned to face the new threat as the monsters charged the party. The situation became tense as the Hobgoblins behind the barricade managed to survive the wardogs’ assault, and Kane’s archery proved ineffective. In the hall, Solla and Mearl were both injured (Mearl now grievously so), even though Solla struck her opponent (with a natural 20, rolled by Kalasandr’s player). The Goblins were frenzied, with the Hobgoblins attacking from the second rank with their spears. Belgarath could no longer cast Web without entrapping his comrades, and all the other party members were already badly injured. All, that is, except for Kalasandr…

The thief leapt forward, lashing out between Solla and Mearl, cutting down the injured Goblin, then reversing his blade to kill the Goblin in front of Mearl (two natural 20s!). The injured fighter withdrew, with Gareth Ironhand coming out of the barricade room to move forward and fill his position in the line. Back inside the room with the barricade, the wardogs finally succeeded in dragging down the Hobgoblins, leaving only the Goblin archers, hemmed in on both sides. Amazingly, the Goblins drew their swords and prepared to defend themselves.

Meanwhile, Kalasandr stabbed one of the two Hobgoblins through the heart, and then slashed the second, injuring it (another natural 20!). Seeing this, the dark Cleric stepped forward, chanting words that made the party’s ears ring. He then reached out and touched Kalasandr, his hideous grin exposing teeth that had been filed to sharpened points. Kalasandr felt the hideous power flowing through him, but reaching deep inside himself, managed to shake off panic and resist the horrible magic the Cleric had used against him (the other players waited with baited breath as Kalasandr’s player rolled the die to Save versus Death… it came up with a natural 20, yet again! The player's fifth such roll in 4 rounds). The dark Cleric’s arrogant look dissolved into confusion as his spell failed to deal with the adventurer.

The Cleric then turned to the only remaining Hobgoblin at his side, chanting again, laying a dark blessing on the Hobgoblin with Cure Light Wounds. The party watched in horror as its wounds closed, and it renewed the fight.

In the barricade room, the wardogs tore the remaining Goblins to pieces, and Kane moved to join the others in the hall.

In the hall, Kalasandr narrowly missed the remaining injured Hobgoblin, but it was subsequently skewered on Mearl’s spear from the back rank. The dark Cleric slammed his mace into the thief. Gareth Ironhand stepped forward and slammed his warhammer into the dark Cleric’s side. With a final groan, the dark Cleric collapsed to the ground. Relieved to have survived, the party searched the immediate area around the room of the battle. Finding nothing else of interest, the decision was finally made to withdraw back to the safety of Guido’s Fort…

bobloblah
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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-wait...Adventure?

Session 10, The Hill

We got started very, very, very late. Very late. But hey, we had a lot of laughs! Caasi's player was forced to drop at the last minute due to illness, but Kane's player, who had earlier cancelled due to a flight, got in early enough to join us. Kane had heard a recent rumour of a master bowyer in the town of Helix, near the Moor...

Gathered around the table in the Lion’s Den were Caasi, Endithas Wolfram, Kalasandr, and Kane. They were studying the small carved area of the table that represented the layout of the dungeon under the Ruined Monastery on the The Hill.

“I say we head back past here… see if that’s where the King is hiding!” Kalasandr pointed at an area beyond where they had explored.

“I want a bow.”

Kalasandr looked up at Kane, frowning. The laconic elf rarely spoke, and the remark had caught Kalasandr off guard. Had he heard that right?

“Uhhh…pardon?” he asked, waiting for Kane to clarify as everyone stared at the elf, expectantly.

Kane’s eyes narrowed, “A bow of masterful construction,” he said, as if that explained his earlier interjection.

“But…” Endithas began, a look of deep confusion on his face as he looked at his companions, “…but, what does that have to do with where the King is?” he finished, turning back to the elf. Kane was gone.

“How does he do that?!” Endithas said, whirling ’round to scan the room. Kane was nowhere to be found.

“I feel unwell.” Caasi said.

Kalasandr and Endithas turned to the cleric as she continued, “I hear the voices of the Immortals. I must rest, and meditate on this!” she said, before turning on her heel and marching out of the public house.

“Well…” Kalasandr said, sounding dejected, “…now what?”

“We head here.” Kalasandr and Endithas started, turning back to the carved table to see Kane pointing at the table.

“How do you DO that?!” Endithas nearly shouted.

“Right, let’s get going. Before anyone else disappears!” Kalasandr finished, turning and heading towards the door.

24th of Felmont, AC 999

Characters: Endithas Wolfram (Fighter 2), Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr (Thief 3), Solla & Waevryn (Kalasandr’s Henchmen), Kane (Elven Ranger 2), Gareth Ironhand (Kane’s Henchman), and 3 hunting dogs and 1 wardog belonging to Kane.

Mortal Wounds: None

Deaths: None

Leveled: None

The party made the uneventful trip back to the Monastery, climbing over the courtyard wall to spend the night, uninterrupted. With the light of morning, they passed into the dark, only to discover a group of Goblins holed up behind barricades in the guardroom. A brief fusillade of ineffective missile fire was exchanged before the Goblins fled down the stairs to the dungeon below, with the party in pursuit.

The Goblins quickly lost the party, and as the group searched for the humanoids, they spotted light from the torture chamber they had previously cleared. A glance past the door revealed a group of Goblins tending to the fire and various other implements of pain. Unfortunately, the Goblins spotted the party, and Endithas Wolfram charged the room, the massive man cutting down three Goblins before they even swung their weapons! As they fell like wheat before the scythe, Kane dropped three more, feathered shafts sprouting from their bodies. In the span of a few heartbeats, they had cut through seemingly all the Goblins, and silence descended on the room.

A quick search led to Kane discovering a lone Goblin, hiding beneath a bunk in one of the holding cells at the back of the torture chamber. In one fluid motion Kane drew, knocked, and fired an arrow at the Goblin’s head. And missed.

The elf’s eyes widened in shock, before he blustered, “Um… tell us..ahhh…where… the King is. Or… umm…the next one! …won’t miss? Ahem.”

Rough questioning followed, as the Goblin attempted to save its own skin, pointing to an area directly south of where the party currently was. For its trouble, they put it out of its misery. They now knew where to find the King!

Deciding to cut through the maze of secret rooms connected to the shrine to He Who Shall Not Be Named, the party cautiously listened at each secret door, wary of their surroundings. Their caution meant that they heard many humanoid voices in the shrine itself before entering, but they unfortunately decided to crack the secret door without masking their light sources. Goblins, Hobgoblins, and Bugbears are well suited to living in total darkness, and the monsters in the evil shrine immediately noticed the light from party’s torches and lantern. The party drew back into the room, but could soon hear the sound of the secret door they had opened being barricaded from the other side.

Realising they were being cornered, the group immediately withdrew through the secret rooms and passages, back to the main corridor. There they set a clever ambush, spreading military oil before the secret entrance that the humanoids would most likely try to attack them from, and then waiting with hooded light sources down a side passage, listening intently for the sound of the monsters opening the secret door in their attempt to ambush the party.

Their patience was soon rewarded, and they caught the humanoids entirely by surprise, a single flaming arrow igniting the oil before spread before the door. Several Hobgoblins died shrieking, immolated in the conflagration before they knew what had happened. Endithas and Gareth then led the charge, slamming into the remaining Hobgoblins from their flank. Their morale held as the Bugbear in their midst motivated them with threats and curses, until it, too, was cut down by the party’s assault. The last of the Hobgoblins tried to flee, and were cut down in the attempt.

Standing victorious over the corpses of their ambushers, the party decided the withdraw from the dungeon to hunt the King another day.

With the time already quite late, we left it there, with the party returning to Guido’s Fort without incident.

bobloblah
Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters Contributor
Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Bring Out Yer Dead!

...or the storied and noble profession of graverobbing.

Session 11, The Hill

“I vote we attack the King!” Endithas said, glowering at the others over the carved table in the main room of the Lion’s Den.

Caasi seemed discomfited by Endithas’ suggestion, “We are few in number. While our cause is just, I am not convinced we have the strength to prevail…” she said, looking across the table at Endithas and Kane in turn.

“Did you not claim the Immortals protect?” claimed the big man, somewhat incredulous at Caasi’s seeming reluctance.

“Of course! They protect!” she replied automatically. She then remembered her encounter with the giant bees, “…mostly…” she finished lamely, unconsciously massaging her left hand.

Kane finally spoke, “I agree with Caasi. There are other possibilities…”

“Eh? Such as?” Endithas asked, seeming genuinely interested.

“This unexplored steam cave. Perhaps it leads under the Hill to the rumoured lake of fire?” Kane suggested, pointing to a spot on the edge of their carved map. He was referring to the rumour the party had previously heard from The Old Timer about a lake of boiling lava beneath The Hill.

“I do not believe that to be wise…” Caasi began, thinking back to her near-death experience of nearly being broiled by a gout of superheated steam.

Kane stared at the carved map a moment longer before speaking again, “Then perhaps we explore this graveyard the Witches claimed lay off the dead clearing…”

“Aye!” replied Endithas, enthusiastically, “Why not? What could possibly go wrong?”

26th to 28th of Felmont, AC 999

Characters: Caasi (Cleric 2), Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman), Endithas Wolfram (Fighter 2), Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kane (Elven Ranger 2), Gareth Ironhand (Kane’s Henchman), 1 Wardog and 3 Hunting Dogs belonging to Kane

Mortal Wounds: none

Deaths: none

Levelled: none

The party headed across the River in the morning and hiked to the Witches’ cottage, as had become their habit, saving themselves from arriving in the vicinity of the the Monastery at nightfall. There was much discussion of the mint tea the Sisters always served; Endithas Wolfram was convinced that the mint was the reason for his sound sleep. The others thought that more than mint might be to blame, which was also likely why the two women were always so happy to have the big man spend the night…

As they neared the cottage, they encountered a group of Neanderthals headed in the opposite direction. Approaching them cautiously, they discovered that several of the small band wore armour and carried spears reminiscent of those the party had discovered in a cache of supplies in the Monastery. While unsure, thinking that all Neanderthals looked the same, the party nevertheless managed to communicate their friendly intent through pantomime. Seemingly recognizing the party as their erstwhile benefactors, the Neanderthals eventually left in peace, but not before gifting the group a hollowed gourd that seemed to contain some type of primitive healing draught that smelled strongly of honey.

Parting from the Neanderthals in friendship, the group arrived at the cottage. They were welcomed, and partook of mint tea before heading to bed for the night.

After a seemingly uneventful night (that Endithas had no memory of), they set out for the dead clearing. Before mid-morning they had crossed the clearing of the Hobgoblin encampment by the lake, still abandoned, and pressed through the woods to the waterfall. As the party entered the clearing, an enormous hulk leapt out from behind the rocks, the nearby waterfall masking the sound of its movements. The Ogres’ club whistled through the air, narrowly missing Endithas’ head. It never got a second chance, as Kane planted an arrow in its chest, and Endithas buried the length of his greatsword in its gut. They quickly searched the Ogres’ corpse, and discovered that it carried some 300 gold in its dirty old sack. Taking the coins, they then pushed the remains over the cliff by the waterfall, hoping to hide the evidence of their presence.

Pressing on, the party arrived at the dead clearing shortly before mid-day. As usual, the clearing was empty and silent, with even the birds and insects shunning the place. With growing uneasiness, the party approached the northern end of the dead clearing, where the Sisters had told them the cemetery lay. Amongst the dead and dying underbrush, a score or more white stones could be seen.

“Gareth…” Kane said in a hushed voice, “…go have a look!”

The dwarf gave Kane a sour look, then carefully moved forward towards the stones. Upon closer examination, the stones appeared quite regular, and had clearly been shaped and placed by the hands of some maker. Gareth ran his rough hand over the surface of the nearest one: carved writing, worn to the point of being indecipherable, marked the stone. In front of one the other nearby stones, a pit had been dug. The hole was some two yards long and an arm-length wide, with a similar depth. Crumbled earth was piled around the hole, and it was clear that this excavation was relatively recent.

Kane motioned towards the hole with his chin, “Gareth… go examine that hole.”

The dwarf’s brow furrowed, “Eh? Why don’t YOU go have a look in the hole?”

“Oh, come on, then…” Caasi shouldered past the two, “I have no problem with dirty, old holes!” she said as she eased into the moist opening. She poked into the bottom of the hole, then gently prodded the sides. Tiny avalanches of wet earth came tumbling down around her feet. There appeared to be nothing in the pit. Caasi looked up at the others and shrugged, “Sometimes a hole is just a hole.”

Caasi clambered out of the hole and brushed dirt from her hands and tunic, then stood looking uncertainly at the other nearby stones.

“Let us head under the trees, see how many of these markers there are…” Kane said. The group clumped together as they began to move cautiously forward into the dead woods. The flank of the Hill sloped down and away from the clearing. They could now see dozens of the apparent gravestones scattered amongst the trees and brush. Every few grave markers, a similar pit had been dug. Some were obviously more recent, but others were old enough to have mostly eroded back in. The light grew dim as the trees closed in above them.

The huddled group was now perhaps two-score yards from the edge of the clearing, and the grave markers stretched ahead of them. Those deeper into the woods stood out in the gloom, showing more wear, with some tumbled or even broken by the roots of the trees.

“I don’t like this!” Endithas whispered, breaking the silence. No sooner had the big man spoken than the “Snap!” of a breaking branch came from behind the group. They all whirled around, panic beginning to set in; a person stood behind them at the edge of the clearing. The figure was silhouetted against the light from beyond the trees, far brighter than where they were standing. They all squinted against the glare, trying to make out the details…

“Huh… hello…?” Caasi said in a wavering voice, completely unnerved by the situation.

The “Crack!” of another broken twig rang out from behind them, deeper into the woods. Into the boneyard. Caasi risked a glance over her shoulder, and her eyes went wide with fear. Two more figures, feral looking, were stealthily clawing their way up the slope towards the party. Their skin had the grey-green pallor of rotting flesh, and they were clothed in decaying rags. As it became clear Caasi had spotted them, both let out an inhuman hiss, and gave up all pretense of stealth in a rush to reach the party.

“On our left!” shouted Endithas, spotting a fourth figure slipping between the trees towards the group.

The hissing undead fearlessly charged the party, although Kane managed to plant an arrow in the one blocking the way back to the clearing. The situation became considerable more dire as the injured thing reached the party: lashing out in a frenzy of dirt-encrusted nails and filthy teeth, it managed to injure both Erasmus and Fodora. In spite of the superficial nature of their wounds, both collapsed bonelessly to the forest floor, unmoving.

Now the real panic began as the party realised the nature of their foes! Gareth Ironhand moved to block the path of the thing that had dropped his companions, and his heavy armour momentarily halted it’s advance. Endithas tried to fend off the second creature, only to have it scratch his cheek with its vile claws. The big man swayed for a moment, but managed to regain his senses in time to cleave the thing in two for its trouble.

“Caasi! Quickly! Call upon the Immortals to drive back these abominations before we are overrun!” Kane shouted as he fended off a blow with his dagger. Caasi turned towards the two scrambling towards the party from deeper in the cemetery, and raised her holy symbol aloft. The power of the Immortals venerated by the Church of Karameikos flowed through her, and a bright, yellow-white glow suffused her holy symbol. Snarling, the two farthest Ghouls raised their decaying limbs to shield their eyes, before turning to stumble away down the slope as fast as they had come.

Behind the cleric the remaining Ghoul clambered bodily over Gareth’s shield to sink its teeth into the dwarf’s shoulder, just as his warhammer came crashing down, breaking the undead thing’s back. Without a sound, both fell limply to the ground. Kane fired arrows at the retreating Ghouls, missing. As the undead stumbled out of sight, an eerie quiet settled on the group, broken only by the sound of the harsh breathing that follows panicked exertion.

Kane was the first to speak, "We have to get out of here!" the wild look in the elf’s eyes the closest any of his companions had seen to real panic. They spent the next several minutes dragging their companions back to the clearing. All yet lived, but were completely unable to move.

Within minutes the group again heard the sounds of something coming through the undergrowth towards them. This time they were prepared, and the dogs and volley after volley of arrows, bolts, and sling-stones greeted the returning Ghouls, cutting them down before they could again threaten the party.

Once all was quiet, the remainder of the cemetery was searched. The pall of unease still hung over the place, and the party estimated that as many as a hundred graves were visible, a third of them visibly exhumed. The henchmen slowly regained their faculties. As they waited, the party sent Caasi elbow-deep in one dirty hole after another, the effort yielding some 6,000 silver pieces, coins of an old, Traladaran vintage, and a single beautiful moonstone. The monks buried here obviously had a fascination with silver offerings for the afterlife.

With the sun moving lower in the sky, and not wanting to be anywhere near the ancient burial ground near nightfall, the group force-marched back to the Witches’ cottage to once again spend the night, before heading back to Guido’s Fort the following morning.

bobloblah
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GHOULS GHOULS GHOULS!

A bedtime story with Endithas Wolfram

Session 11, Player Recap

I decided to include a player's write-up for Session 11, as I found it highly entertaining. As writing session reports has become something I have less and less time for, I've started occasionally leaving Endithas' reports as sole report for some sessions. They're funnier than mine, anyway!

Erasmus! Fetch me some ale and then sit as I recount our adventures to you. I know you long to curl up by the fire and listen to stories of our adventures before bed. I see you nodding my silent compatriot. Quick with the ale! Now, let us begin.

Caasi, Kane and I met at this very pub, deciding what to do on our next adventure. We discussed going to look for the King under the Hill again, but we thought it may be wiser, as we were so few, to steer in another direction instead. We talked of many possibilities, but it was concluded that we would investigate the clearing below the monastery, as it was said to once contain a place that monks would worship at, but now only horrific flesh eaters dwell!

Yes, yes Erasmus! You were there too! And Fodora, Caasi’s sworn follower, as well as Gareth the dwarf, who is in Kane’s employ. What an odd looking pair they are, the elf and dwarf! Ha! Yes, you think it’s funny too, don’t you Erasmus!

Now, we crossed the river and headed to the old ladies, both of whom I am very fond of. We drank tea, quite a lot of it, and asked them of our chosen destination, but they could tell us little more than we already knew.

The next day we headed straight towards the clearing. Just as we crossed out of the woods, we were accosted by an enormous ogre! The villain raised it’s club, intending to crush us where we stood, but before it could attack my sword was deep in its innards and Kane’s arrow firmly lodged in its throat! The beast collapsed with a loud thud, dead before it hit the ground. We found some 300 gold pieces, a fair exchange for our troubles! Yes, I see you shaking your purse, you have some of them there, don’t you!

We dragged the ogre to the ridge’s edge and pushed him over, the evidence of our transgressions destroyed! We pressed on across to the far side of the clearing. To the north east is the path up to the monastery, but we were headed to the north west on this day. That’s where we were warned by the old ladies to tread carefully.

As we approached the other side of the clearing, the plants seemed to whither and turn grey, with the thornbush looking sickly, almost dead. You could feel it in the air, evil lurking in the darkness.

Now Erasmus, have no fear! You already know the end of this tale! You were THERE!

We came across a number of small square white stones amongst the underbrush, likely grave markers. There were perhaps more than a hundred of them! And that’s when Kane’s hounds became restless. Up ahead we could see that some of the grave markers had holes dug up in front of them. And was it my imagination that they were dug from the inside out!? Within one grave we found a moonstone and 6000 silver pieces! Yes, I know that smile, you have a few of those in your purse as well Erasmus, don’t you! Ha!

The hairs on the back of my neck stood up just then. I turned around and saw a figure swaying in the distance behind us. It just stood there staring at us. After a moment I raised my hand in greeting and it mimicked me, when suddenly we could hear their inhuman groans!

Movement in the brush from all sides was noticed, we were being surrounded by the monsters! Four of them in total moved towards us, shuffling forward with deadly purpose. Caasi raised her hands above her head and began reciting scripture, imploring her beloved lord to smite our enemies as they advanced. I sometimes forget she is a devote follower of her faith, but her god listened and two of the undead turned and moved away from us. We could feel the power of her god giving us strength in the face of this dire evil!

The other two engaged us. We did our best to defend ourselves, but soon Fodora, Gareth and you, Erasmus, were on the ground, incapacitated! And after only receiving the tiniest of scratches! Oh, please don’t fret Erasmus, it’s over now! They are nowhere near!

Kane, Caasi and I did our best to fight the evil creatures, but it was the hounds that made the difference! The pack of canines tore into the inhuman creatures and soon had shred them to ribbons! When the fray had ended we quickly dragging you three into the clearing and away from the graves.

We wanted to search more, but the sun was beginning to dip, and we knew that we could spare no more time. Caasi said that it was stupid to search graves, so I suppose she will refuse her share of the spoils, hey? Ha!

We returned without further incident to the old ladies, and then back across the river the next day.

Now, time for bed Erasmus. And tomorrow morning you will bathe, as promised! Now off upstairs!

bobloblah
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Out of the Plan and Into the Fire!

...or smoking is bad for your health.

Session 12, The Hill

We had all our regular players out plus two new players I recruited online, so it was a full house. Belgarath's player, who had at this point become convinced that everything was better than an old-school Mage, decided to play his second-string Character, a Gnomish Trickster.All the extra bodies meant much more work herding cats in order to get the session underway, and we were a bit short on time, although better than some recent sessions.

<Speaking in Elvish>

Those ones?” said Vandelay, somewhat incredulous.

Elerren Mathanion glanced surreptitiously back at the motley crew surrounding the largest table in the Lion’s Den. They were mostly human, although a rather dour looking dwarf was among them, but they were clearly led by an elf, a forrester by his appearance, “Yes. The publican here has stated that they are… known? …around this place as the only adventurers who have been to this ‘Hill’ and returned.

Have I truly fallen so far?” Vandelay said to himself under his breath.

He had met Elerren Mathanion the day before on the road to Guido’s Fort, and the spellsword had proven an amiable companion. Both were headed for the Fort based on the rumour that a sizeable ruin had been discovered across the River, with many of its monstrous defenders defeated by a group of treasure-hunters. All in all, a target ripe for someone looking to make a name for themselves. Still, Vandelay could not tackle such an expedition alone, or even with his new companion. He would need help, perhaps even that of the human tomb raiders before him.

Elerren Mathanion politely ignored the remark, “Shall we approach them?”

Vandelay sighed heavily, “Yes. It will become no more palatable by waiting.”

___________________________________________________________________________________

Kalasandr’s mind drifted as his companions discussed the particulars of their next expedition. The thief leaned back in his chair, his feet crossed on the edge of the carved table. There really wasn’t any doubt in his mind that they would seek the King. He had surprised himself with his own burgeoning obsession with tracking down the humanoids’ master. As he glanced across the dimly lit room – Endithas was saying something or other about the Witches and mint tea – he caught sight of a pair of striking figures near the bar. Elves! Well, more elves, really, if he considered Kane. And they looked to be well outfitted. And strikingly clean!

“Fresh faced and innocent!” Kalasandr murmured as he tipped his chair forward and rose to his feet, before heading across the room towards the new comers.

His path was abruptly blocked…

“Hi there!”

Kalasandr looked down with a frown. A bizarre-looking gnome stood before him.

“Is this yours?” the Gnome asked, reaching behind the Thief’s ear to withdraw a wriggling roach, “I’ll take care of that for you!” the Gnome said before popping it into his mouth.

“You have got to be kidding me…” Kalasandr stared down at the Gnome before him; he had to admit, the bloke had deft hands, as he hadn’t caught sight of the roach before the Gnome had “pulled” it from his ear.

“I’m Tover! I can be most useful on expeditions of an adventurous sort,” Tover said.

“Right. Go talk to them,” Kalasandr said, jerking his thumb back over his shoulder towards his companions. He then pushed past the Gnome towards the elves.

___________________________________________________________________________________

Vandelay saw a young human man walking up to them, his dark clothes worn and muddy. No doubt a homeless grave robber of the sort he would soon be forced to work with. Vandelay stared somewhat imperiously at him, and neither he nor Elerren spoke.

Kalasandr broke into a lopsided grin, “You’re new here, right?”

Vandelay held the human’s gaze, but it was Elerren that broke the awkward silence, “Yes. We are looking for… companions.”

The young human’s smile stayed in place. If anything, it broadened, “Oh, really? And what sort of… companion… would you be looking for?”

Was the human mocking them? Was he implying they were looking for the services of a courtesan? The ridiculous human language always seemed purposefully imprecise, “We mean to explore across the River,” Vandelay began, his speech clipped and direct, as if he had rehearsed these words for some time before saying them aloud, “The publican of the establishment has told us that you have some knowledge of what lies across the water. You would accompany us, and we would offer you a half-share in any treasure we find as a reward.”

Kalasandr’s grin dissolved into a hearty chuckle, “Oh, you’re going to fit right in, Freshmeat. Follow me!” he said, turning back towards the back of the tavern without waiting for a reply…

2nd to 5th of Fyrmont, AC 999

Characters: Caasi (Cleric 2), Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman), Elerren Mathanion (Elven Spellsword 1), Endithas Wolfram (Elven Spellsword 1), Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr (Thief 3), Solla and Waevryn (Kalasandr’s Henchmen), Kane (Elven Ranger 2), Gareth Ironhand (Kane’s Henchman), 1 Wardog and 3 Hunting Dogs belonging to Kane, Tover (Gnomish Trickster 1), and Vandelay (Elven Spellsword 1)

Mortal Wounds: none

Deaths: none

Levelled: none

The large group crossed the River in two trips, their ferryman, Boris, grinning from ear to ear. The quality of his clothes had noticeably improved since the party had first met him, and his fortunes appeared to be looking up with the recent influx of adventurers.

With everyone accounted for, they set off on the long hike to the Monastery. The day was hot and muggy, with a dim haze obscuring the distance. By the time they reached the dead clearing, all were tired and sweaty from the heat and their exertion. Night was approaching, and as the sun sank from the sky, the cooler night air brought with it a shroud of fog that closed in on the flanks of the Hill. As visibility worsened, the already uneasy atmosphere of the dead clearing grew menacing. The silence was abruptly broken by the sound of something crunching through the undergrowth ahead…

The party stopped and listened… nothing. Visibility was now less than a couple hundred feet, and the thickening fog seemed to be playing tricks on their hearing; Elerren heard something moving ahead, then behind, then to their side. One of the others heard the “swish!” of something sliding through long grass. With nothing visible within the worsening fog, the party closed ranks and continued forward at a much slower pace.

Abruptly, a cry went up from the rear of the group! An enormous, horned lizard was spotted charging the back rank. The massive thing was some dozen feet long from tail to the tip of its horn, yet it had managed to get terrifyingly close without detection. The “how” became immediately apparent, as even as it charged its skin colour shifted flowed, matching dusty ground and scrub over which it sprinted. Erasmus and Solla had no time to even raise their weapons before the thing was upon them!

Erasmus was knocked over, and Solla slashed across the arm by the beast’s massive horn. The party turned to fight, but found their attacks batted aside, or failing to pierce the lizard’s thick skin. It lunged into the midst of them, its tail and horned-head lashing about, wildly.

As Elerren struck home with his blade, Kane finally managed to plant an arrow in the massive lizard’s eye, it flailing bulk collapsing into the diets, clawing feebly at the air as it died. Much to the other’s shock and disgust, Vandelay stepped forward and hacked off the beast’s tail, “You never now. We might get hungry!” was all the elf said in reply.

Hoisting the three stone hank of lizard meat, the group set off again, desperate to reach the Monastery before nightfall; several of them remembered the horrors they had previously encountered on the trails after dark. Unfortunately, full dark had settled upon before they even reached the end of the path that led up to the ruin. Moving cautiously through the heavy fog and darkness, they approached the outer ruined wall surrounding the Monastery courtyard. As they did, Elerren’s sharp ears once again perked up, and he caught the sound of running feet, seemingly hurrying away from the party. The group quickly collapsed into indecision, huddled and crouched along the outside of the ruined wall. Tover finally convinced them to move close enough for him to cover them with an illusion of the wall itself, leaving a lantern some twenty yards away as bait, and in the darkness they waited. And waited. And waited. With the lantern finally guttering as it ran low on oil, it was decided that they would skulk round the wall to the decrepit outbuildings they had previously spent the night in, and wait until morning to assault the Monastery itself.

The night passed without incident, and in the morning the group moved off into the woods to circle around to the back of the Monastery. There they slipped over the courtyard wall, and through the secret door into the main buildings. Silence and darkness greeted them. They checked the nearby corridors: nothing. They listened at the guardroom door: silence.

The group prepared themselves, readying everyone to assault the guardroom, before wrenching open the door, hurling in torches, and charging inside. The guardroom, which had been occupied on most of their previous forays, was cold, dark, and silent. The party began to steel themselves for the descent into the dungeon below, as an argument broke as to who should lead the way. An attempt was first made to push Gareth Ironhand to the front, but the newcomers, Vandelay and Elerren Mathanion ended up volunteering for the privilege, heading to front of the marching order as the party descending the stairs.

Moving warily, the front rank was brought up short as the bottom of the stairs came into view: the entrance to the corridor was choked with what appeared to be underbrush! Branches, leaves, and other debris was stacked across the opening from floor to ceiling, blocking the way forward. A whispered discussion rippled through the party’s ranks as they considered the significance of this flimsy barricade – it looked nowhere near strong enough to prevent them from pushing through – when a spark of flame caught their attention…

Fire blossomed in the flammable barricade below them, and quickly spread through the accumulated tinder. Panic and disorder seized the group as shouts of what to do volleyed back and forth between them! As the group milled about on the stairs, paralysed with indecision, the door at the top of the stairs slammed shut behind them, the click of the engaging lock ringing out like the toll of doom.

Realising they were in mortal danger, Kalasandr sprinted back up the stairs to the door and began frantically working on the lock. Near the bottom of the stairs, Vandelay and Elerren pushed lower, before being forced back by the intensifying heat from the flames. A steady plume of smoke now roiled up the stairwell and began filling the room above.

Cursing floridly, Kalasandr pushed his picks too hard, and with a “Ping!” (and a roll of a natural 1! This unfortunately tied into a handful of houserules I am using for Thief skills) his pick snapped, sending a tiny piece of metal spinning off over his shoulder; the other half remained firmly jammed in place. The lock was now beyond even the use of a key. Kane had the thief move aside, and attempted to batter the door down, but the oaken, iron-bound portal did not so much as budge under his repeated attempts to shoulder it open.

Endithas called to his man Erasmus, and the two of them seized Solla’s axes, pushing the others aside to begin frantically hacking at the door. It was clear that cutting through such a formidable barrier would take many minutes, and it was by no means clear that they would not be asphyxiated by the rising pall of smoke before the task was complete.

Back at the bottom of the stairs, attempts were made to push the barrier aside with poles and spears, but the group had waited too long, and the fire was now far too intense to get close enough without risking immolation. (It was then, in their darkest moment, when a TPK seemed certain, that Vandelay’s player asked a fateful question, “What does SUMMON BERSERKERS do?” This player had many years of AD&D experience, but was new to our group, and had never played ACKS. As he looked over the spell, a plan formed in his mind.)

After a brief discussion, Vandelay summoned four, ghostly elven warriors in tooled leather armour, and gave them their instructions, “Charge through the barrier and slay all you find!” The four spirit elves threw themselves at the flaming blockade, the lead berserker soundlessly immolated as they pushed through, but the other three survived the gauntlet with only minor burns. The waiting Goblins and Hobgoblins stood stunned as the ghostly elves came crashing through the flaming debris, and immediately lay into the goblinoids with their swords. Vandelay, Elerren, and Kane followed the summoned spirits to the bottom of the stairs, stepping around flaming piles of branches, and began firing arrows and bolts over the heads of the Goblins into the Hobgoblins behind them. At the back of one of the passages, a massive Bugbear exhorted the lesser goblinoids forward, eager to get to grips with the hated elves.

While the slaughter commenced at the bottom of the stairs, several party members gathered at the top, trying to decide what to do. Endithas and Erasmus had halted their assault on the door, but several Henchmen and Kane’s dogs choked the passage down the stairs to the battle below. As they stood quietly discussing their options, a loud “Click!” came from the locked door, as the bizarre commotion had finally gained the attention of those who had locked the party in. Kalasandr lunged behind the door, hoping for a chance to backstab whoever had sprung the trap.

The door swung open, and a man in a black hood and armour, brandishing wicked scimitars, stepped through. Kalasandr poised himself to spring upon the man from behind, but with a bloodcurdling cry, Endithas dropped his axe, drew his mighty greatsword, and severed the man’s arm at the shoulder before he had even had the chance to raise his blade. Kicking the falling corpse aside, Endithas charged into the guardroom to find a group of similarly armed and armoured men standing in momentary shock at his entrance. Their hesitation meant death, as the big man fell upon them like a thunder stoke, hewing left and right as he cut them down, his booming laughter the sound of a mad butcher. Caasi, Kalasandr, and their Henchmen followed him into the room, and attacked those beyond his reach. The ambushers showed no fear or hesitation, but the tables had been turned, and the predators had abruptly become the prey.

The battle still waged at the bottom of the stairs, with the party holding the upper hand. Kane set his dogs on the nearest Goblins as it became clear that the upper door had been breached, and the elves and Gareth began to withdraw towards the surface. The massive Bugbear forced its way forward, cleaving through the spirit elves with abandon. Fearful of confronting the huge, shaggy goblinoid in such close quarters, a flask of oil was tossed down the stairs to douse the thing. As the Bugbear stood snarling up at the party through mangy fur dripping with oil, Tover used his Pestidigitation to flick a spark from his lantern at the beast…WOOF! The Bugbear burst into flame, and, howling in pain, collapsed back down the stairs.

Above, the guardroom was sprayed with gore, and the battle had come down to the leader of the dark-cloaked men, a man wielding a blade and shield with a skill far beyond that of his subordinates, and the blood-spattered Endithas Wolfram. The two exchanged blows as the party surrounded the man in black, but Endithas finally found the opening he needed, and stabbed the length of his greatsword through the man’s chest. Held upright by the blade piercing his body, the dark-armoured man appeared as if he was trying to speak – several party members moved closer, trying to hear what the man was saying – but it was drowned out by Endithas as he forced his sword forward, cradling the man’s head, “Shhh! Shhh! Shhhhhhh!” Light faded from the man’s eyes, and he spoke no more.

In the aftermath of the battle, the party quickly searched the bodies of the dead. All bore a strange tattoo in the shape of two manacles connected by a chain on their left forearm, and the lesser men also bore strange scars on their ankles and wrists. Strangely, none seemed to carry any gold or other possessions.

With their narrow escape from certain death, it was decided that the party would withdraw and regroup, in case further ambush awaited them below (and because it was midnight)… their trip back to Guido’s Fort was without incident.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

ENDITHAS! ENDITHAS! ENDITHAS!
Awesome.

bobloblah
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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

It was truly awesome, in the original sense of that word. Some of the other players sat with mouths agape as it occurred. Highlights one of the many reasons why ACKS kicks ass, too: ACKS Fighters kick ass! In a game of B/X or BECMI, that would've taken a 2nd Level Fighter about 6 or 7 rounds, in which time they'd have been whittled down. As my other players all discovered as of this session, Endithas is a threshing machine in combat.

bobloblah
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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

IT'S A TRAP!

An evening with Endithas Wolfram

Session 12, Player recap

Well hello there! Back for another tale from the old man I see. Well, bring me some drink and I will be happy to oblige! Though I be old, and my adventuring years are far behind me, my memory is sharp! Though I can't seem to remember your name...

Now, though you may think that my companions and I were, in every instance, cleverer than our adversaries and always victorious! It simply is not true. We lost our share of battles, and were outwitted at times.

I recall one such instance in the early days at Guido's Fort. This tale, like most, begins at the Lion's Den. My comrades in arms, Caasi, Kane, Kalasandr and I were standing around the adventurers' table, discussing what to do next. We had made several forays into the monastery on the Hill, but had not yet been able to find our prey, the King himself.

While debating and scheming, we noticed two elves at the bar glancing in our direction. We stared back, and after what seemed like an eternity of awkwardness, introductions were made and the party swelled in membership. They were Elerren and Vandelay, and they would soon prove to be excellent additions to our group.

Just then, a smallish creature introducing himself as Tover made his way over as well, and before our eyes flames in the shape of a dragon darted from his nimble fingers! What magic! We eagerly invited the tiny gnome to join us, and so the party was set at seven, along with our hired aides we totaled 12, as well as Kane's hounds! Certainly we would be a match for any adversary, though I feared we were about to lose our element of surprise.

We crossed the river the next day and hiked to the old dames. They had a new blend of delicious tea that had hints of Jasmine. Such fun!

After a sound slumber we headed for our destination. The morning started off clear, but soon a fog started to decent over us like a blanket. We were losing visibility, making us move even more cautiously. We could feel something out there in the fog watching us.

As we were crossing the clearing below the monastery, we tensed. We could hear movement, but the mist seemed to thicken as we stained our eyes to see what was out there!

Something approached, and with great speed! We braced ourselves, but were still taken by surprise as an enormous lizard-like creature broke through our ranks! It was the length of two men, with a large horn on it's head, razor claws, sharp jowls, and a vicious tail striking at us!

We had difficulty with the creature, but were eventually able to bring the beast down. We stood wordlessly panting around the dying varmint, it's blood dripping from sword and spear, grateful that none of us were seriously injured. There was some jest about how the inside smelled worse than the outside, to which we all awkwardly laughed before moving on.

We came to the end of the clearing and entered the path that would take us to the monastery. We moved as quickly as we could, but as night was falling and because of the fog we needed to light torches. I feared we would be seen as the fog seemed to amplify the light they created.

When we came to the end of the trail we rushed to the wall of the monastery ahead of us, attempting to take cover. We listened, straining our ears for sound of danger. Elerren whispered he heard footsteps quickly moving away from our direction. We set up a trap, placing a lantern at the wall while Tover made us all invisible 20 paces distant. We waited in anticipation of an attack, but one never came.

After waiting in agonizing silence, we slowly made our way to the back of the monastery walking on the outside of the wall, with Tover climbing over to walk along the inside with Elerren! Our new companions had such amazing bravery!

We came to a courtyard area that we had camped at before. We spent a restless night within, sure that at any minute our enemies would come hurtling out of the misty dark. But nothing occurred that night. I'm not sure anyone slept well, but no one said so the next morning as we quietly packed and left.

We cautiously entered the back of the monastery through a door that seemed veiled within the wall, invisible to those not trained in such discovery. We had found this hidden entrance on a previous adventure, allowing us to penetrate the monastery unseen. We made our way through corridor and into a large room that had used tables and other articles as barricades, but they were abandoned. Silence was the only inhabitant.

At the far end of the room was a door with stairs behind it. This is where we would enter the dungeon. We knew the King waited down those stairs, and we grew inpatient with anticipation. We heard and saw nothing to make us think there was any danger, so we ventured through the door and down the narrow stairs.

Just then, those in the lead noticed that at the bottom of the stairs there was kindling and debris. Suddenly, a blue flame leapt up and ran across the refuse and the floor, lighting into a blazing inferno! Simultaneously, the door behind us at the top of the stairs slammed shut, and we could not open it!

We were trapped! Ambushed by those we were seeking!

We heard our enemy jeer at us and bang their shields from the bottom of the stairs while the corridor where we stood filled with black smoke. Kalasandr tried to pick the lock, but it would not open for him, likely as it was spiked on the other side. Erasmus and I took up axes and began to smash at the door, but we knew the small space would fill up with soot before we could break it down.

Vandelay calmly stepped forward to the top of the stairs. He contorted his hands and body, manipulating the mystic energies and summoning four elven beserkers! Again, such magic was amazing to behold. They stared at him, waiting to be commanded by their master. He merely pointed down the stairs, silently communicating his intentions to his magical minions.

The four elvish warriors, almost shimmering in appearance, leapt into action, bounding down the stairs and putting out the fire by pulling apart the dry fuel it needed to burn. One of the warriors screeched in anguish from the flames as it collapsed and vanished! The other three had completed their task, and then continued on, throwing themselves onto the horde that waited and taunted at the bottom of the stairs.

Kane, Vandelay and Elerren joined in the fray with the three remaining beserkers. A bugbear and several hobgoblins and goblins crashed into our companions, a wave of spears and swords. But though our opponents outnumbered us, through our experience and unity, my companions held their own against the foul mob.

Erasmus and I were at the top of the stairs, hammering on the door. When we heard the clash of swords from below, we turned to run down to help. Just as we did so, we noticed the door that had been barred to us suddenly open, and shadowy figure in the archway.

I turned around and charged, but what I saw certainly was unexpected. A man in hooded armor and sword stood in front of me. His eyes widened as I brought my own sword down upon his neck, spraying us with his blood as the light in his eyes extinguished. Caasi, Erasmus and Kalasandr and I all attacked. There were 5 more of these vicious men, all similarly dressed, and we had no intention of letting them live. We slaughtered them while our companions at the bottom of the stairs defeated the horde of bogeymen.

As I pulled my sword from the last man's stomach, he spoke with vile intent, perhaps a curse of damnation. I covered his mouth while his spirit left his body, telling him to be still. Such was the fate of those that opposed us.

It was at this moment that I discovered something unusual. A brand was on each of these men. Two manacles linked by a chain. And their hands and wrists were covered in scars. A curious sight, to be sure.

But we had no more time for more discovery or conjecture. Luck had been with us to escape this ambush, but we decided retreat was the best option on this day. Fortunately none of us had fallen, but we were not confident that if we were to delve deeper into the dungeon in search of the King that we would succeed. His army had been alerted to our presence, and he would have to wait for another day.

 

bobloblah
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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Will we...or won't we?

He who hesitates... 

Session 13, the Hill

Caasi walked into the dim light of the tavern, her eyes taking a moment to adjust. She muttered to herself constantly now, ever since her left arm had been restored. Such close contact with the Immortals had left an indelible mark upon her soul. Across the common room stood the unmistakable silhouette of Endithas Wolfram, the big man looming over his slender elven companion, Kane. As Caasi moved across the room towards the pair, they turned and approached her. Her smile faltered as they walked past her…

“Wait… where are you going?”

“The Hill!” Kane said, barely above a whisper, as if that explained everything.

Caasi frowned at them, momentarily confused, “But… shouldn’t we…? I mean, don’t you think… well, what about a plan?”

“Plan? With our might, there is only one plan: kill the King!” Endithas spat on the floor, as if to emphasize his point.

Heaving a heavy sigh, Caasi followed her companions out into the early morning sun; she was no longer muttering, but still cast her voice low, “I have a baaad feeling about this…”

7th to 10th of Fyrmont, AC 999

Characters: Caasi (Cleric 2), Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman), Endithas Wolfram (Fighter 2), Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kane (Elven Ranger 2), Gareth Ironhand (Kane’s Henchman, Vaultguard 2), and 1 Wardog and 3 Hunting Dogs belonging to Kane

Mortal Wounds: None

Deaths: 1 Hunting Dog was butchered by Goblin smiths

Levelled: None

As had become fairly standard practice now, the group crossed the River and headed straight for the Witches’ cottage, spending the night so as to avoid arriving at the Monastery at sundown. The Sisters were happy to see them, particularly Endithas, and the night passed in pleasant distraction.

Heading out in the morning, they crossed the remains of the Hobgoblin encampment, and discovered a small party of Neanderthals digging through the remains. Simple gestures of friendship quickly established that no harm or threat was intended, and the party moved on, leaving the Neanderthals to their task.

Sometime before noon, the party crossed the dead clearing, and headed up the trail towards the Ruined Monastery. As they drew closer, the scent of burning became apparent, and Kane spotted trails of smoke above the trees. The elf was sent to scout ahead, and, climbing a tree, Kane could see dozens of Hobgoblins in organised groups moving about several fires in the courtyard of the Monastery. Never before had the party seen any significant activity on the surface, and with dozens of the humanoids on open ground, this was clearly more than the six party members could easily handle!

Kane withdrew to report back to the others, and the players then engaged in a nearly two hour discussion of what to do! Plans were made and discarded, with the debate sometimes growing heated in the drive to reach a conclusion. In the end, a consensus was reached: the party would prepare an ambush on the trail, draw out the Hobgoblins, then inflict maximum casualties before fleeing back to the fort to warn the garrison.

The rest of the in-game day was spent digging and concealing a pit (which wouldn’t pass casual inspection, but might be missed in the heat of pursuit), laying military oil (in the pit and before it on the Monastery side), and preparing a spiked barricade 50’ back from the pit. As night was falling, and the Hobgoblins would have the advantage after dark, the party hunkered down to spend the long, cold, dark hours of the night camped around their crude fortifications. Taking watch in pairs, the night passed uneventfully, and in the morning, Kane once again snuck within sight of the courtyard. The Hobgoblins had dispersed somewhat, but there were still at least several dozen milling about, performing some kind of unidentifiable tasks.

Kane once again withdrew back to the group, and another heated argument erupted as the party once again debated a course of action. Eventually it was decided that they would abandon their ambush, and would instead circle around to the eastern side of the Monastery and attempt to enter by stealth, as they had done so many times before. Only Endithas had serious misgivings, as he feared the party could be cut off from the trail to the west of the Monastery, or even trapped in the dungeon below, making their withdrawal much more difficult. In the end, he was overruled, and he grudgingly agreed to the plan.

Circling much wider around the ruins in the opposite direction to their usual approach, the party slipped over the wall into the peaceful courtyard unchallenged. A quick check for tracks revealed none at the secret entrance, although a new barricade had been erected on the inside of the visible door to the courtyard. Entering through the secret door and again checking for tracks revealed no evidence that the Hobgoblins or Goblins knew of the secret back entrance. The group passed through the guardroom, and headed into the dungeon below.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, the party headed left, and immediately caught sight of firelight and the sound of hammering from the forge they had previously rescued Gareth from. A heavy, guttural voice barked orders in a tongue none could understand. Creeping forward, they spied Goblins manning the forges, overseen by a vicious Bugbear. After a whispered discussion, Kane leapt out, dropping several Goblins by surprise. The rest of the party charged the room, and Kane unleashed his hounds as the Bugbear lashed at the elf’s bow with a cruelly barbed whip. The archer narrowly managed to avoid being disarmed, and as the dogs and Henchmen attacked the Goblins, Endithas traded blows with the Bugbear. The goblinoids were quickly slain, with the only casualty being one of the Hunting Dogs, sliced to pieces by a screaming Goblin. The Belgarath’s skill at husbanding animals was sorely missed as the poor creature expired from its wounds.

The bodies were quickly hidden in Gareth’s former cell off the forge-room, and the group doubled-back the way they had come, and then on through a series of secret corridors to the chapel. Here they explored a small, secret chamber containing a ladder leading through a hole in the floor they had discovered when they first explored the chapel. Caasi clambered to the bottom of the ladder, then through a low tunnel that led to a cage. An unidentifiable piece of rotting meat was the only thing in the cage, but there was also a chimney leading upwards above the cage. This, it was soon determined, connected with the idol to He Who Shall Not Be Named in the chapel, with the cage the apparent source of the giant flies that had left Waevryn’s face permanently scarred. The mystery of the ladder solved, the party headed out through the double-doors to continue their exploration.

Across the corridor from the chapel were a series of three doors, and though the party could hear sounds behind two of them, all were locked, and inaccessible without a thief or the cacophony of an axe. Moving south towards the area a Goblin captive had previously told them the Hobgoblin King was located in, the party paused at a guardroom door where they had been flanked by, and killed, a dark priest; from the room beyond came the sound of many voices, and the group decided to avoid the guards in favour of further exploration.

Moving east, the party pushed through the first door they found. Inside a nearly empty room, two bodies lay on the floor, broken weapons and gear scattered about. One of the two was heavily armoured, the other in light leather, but both had obviously died violent deaths. Worse still, both showed signs of mutilation that suggested they had been chewed. The corpses were checked for items of value, and while Endithas refused the dead man’s plate mail, Erasmus was more than happy to put up with the smell. A quiver and a well-made bow were also taken.

As the bodies were looted, Kane searched the room for secret doors, and to his surprise, stumbled over an object none could see. Baffled by the phenomenon, the party took several minutes to determine that there was a third corpse in the room, but one that remained invisible. The party began stripping the dead woman, breaking limbs to do so, hoping a magical garment was the source of the invisibility. While they were so preoccupied, a secret door that Kane had missed opened behind them...

...and through the hidden entrance charged the hideous Thoul that had been snacking on the bodies! In an instant, it had crossed the gap to Endithas, and slashed the big man with its claws. Endithas dropped like a stone to the floor, paralyzed! The creature then lunged at Kane, who managed to get a single arrow off before narrowly avoiding its talons. The hounds and Gareth then leapt to the defence of their master, and tore the creature limb from limb, the battle over mere moments after it had begun. As the party waited for Endithas to recover, the sickening realisation dawned that the foul creature’s wounds were closing, its body knitting itself back together.

“Burn it with fire!” shouted Kane, and a liberal application of torches left the charred remains inert.

The group finished examining the room, then returned to the problem of the invisible body. Much of its clothing had now been removed, and was visible, but the corpse itself still could not be seen. In a moment of inspiration, Kane felt his way to the corpse’s hands, and discovered a ring. As the ring was removed, the half-naked body abruptly appeared, and the elven archer slipped the ring on his own finger. To the others’ shock, Kane vanished from sight, only reappearing when he removed the ring. The elf immediately donned the ring again, but this time remained entirely visible.

“The magic must work but once a day…” he said, dejectedly. (The player, optimiser that he is, has since read the rulebook, and figured out that it works once per Turn.)

Once Endithas had finally recovered from his paralysis, the group moved through the secret door into the chamber beyond. The room they discovered was a charnel house, the floor littered with bones of every description. Many were smashed, or cracked open, the Thoul seeking the marrow at their centre. Nothing more value was found, and as the party sifted through the grisly remains, the sound of voices came through a door across from the secret entrance the party had used. From what seemed to be a corridor beyond, the sound of arguing Goblins could be heard passing, and as the voices receded the party leapt through portal into the corridor behind them!

Before the Goblins even knew they were under attack, Kane had slain four of the five with arrows to the back. The fifth, realising death had come, shrieked in fear and bolted down the corridor. Kane and Endithas charged after him, but a few strides took them beyond the light of their torches. The Goblin unhampered by darkness, sped away from the party down the corridor. Kane snatched a torch from his dwarven retainer, and sprinted after the fleeing Goblin, the rest of the party mere moments behind. The party knew of only one exit from the dungeon to the surface, and if the Goblin warned the army encamped above, the party would be doomed!

As Kane sprinted after the fleeing humanoid, he could hear he was gaining on it. Suddenly, the sound of its running stopped! Worried it would slip away, he hurled his torch ahead, casting just enough illumination to make out the Goblin’s form standing by a door. In one smooth motion the archer knocked and fired an arrow on the run, but the fateful shot missed, and the Goblin pounded on the door before which it stood. The elf drew another arrow as the rest of the party approached, but before he could fire, the door opened, and the Goblin darted inside! The party ran forward, but the door slammed shut behind their quarry.

Gareth and Endithas hurled themselves against the door, but the heavy portal would not budge. As they frantically checked their map, they realised this was the guardroom they had passed earlier. That meant there was another exit from the room, opening on to a corridor that led back to the dungeon’s exit…

In panic, Kane shouted for them to drop what they didn’t need and run! Equipment was discarded, and Gareth, slowest of all, gave up all but his warhammer and armour, as the party now ran for their very lives. The sprint to the nearest junction seemed to take an eternity, and their breath came in great, whooping gasps; they reached the junction, pausing to listen, only to see a troupe of Hobgoblins come running round the nearest corner.

With a shouted cry the Hobgoblins charged the party, spears levelled to impale them. Endithas and Caasi stood firm in the corridor, and as they received the Hobgoblins attack, a bloody mêlée broke out.

“Back around! Circle behind them and prevent their escape!” shouted Kane, sending the party’s Henchman running back to the barricaded door, before turning to stab past his companions with his spear. The wave of Hobgoblins broke against the wall of steel death that blocked the corridor, and slowly, inexorably, they were cut to pieces.

The Henchmen finally managed to batter the guardroom door aside, and came running up the adjoining corridor behind the Hobgoblins, just as the last of their number was slain. It immediately became clear that neither side of the party had found the Goblin that had alerted the guards, and the group decided a full retreat was in order. The party hustled back to the surface, slipping out their secret entrance, before hopping over the ruined wall and sprinting for the trees. As the party circled wide of the Monastery, a commotion went up in the distance. The Hobgoblin army on the surface had been warned! Fearing pursuit, the group made the best time they could back across the Hill to the river, signalling the far side, then waiting anxiously to be picked up. Only when Boris’ boats passed beyond bowshot of the shore did the group finally relax; they had escaped! Warning would be carried to Ivana, and the garrison of Guido’s Fort would be made ready…

bobloblah
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AND THERE WAS BLOOD

An evening with Endithas Wolfram

Session 13, Player recap

Hello again, I see you’re back at Guido’s Fort, and thirsty from the look of it. You must be curious why there is so much activity going on in the fort at the moment. I can explain all if you’d like. Bring us some ale and I will tell you of a tale of heroics and bravery that will surely delight you!

Thanks for the grog. I’m Endithas Wolfram, and all I will tell you is true.

Not three nights hence, with my trusted companions Kane and Caasi, we set back off over the river. We also brought our valiant aides, Gareth, Fodora, Kane’s four hounds and Erasmus. We had only one thing in mind; to kill a King that lives within the Hill.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, that no one goes across the river and returns! But we have, friend, we have.

We stayed a night at the old dames’ place. We drank tea, I think there was mint perhaps,  and… well, not much more can I remember of the evening. But it was pleasant, certainly, and I awoke refreshed and rejuvenated! Waving goodbye to our hostesses the next morning, we set off to the Hill with a plan in mind and a spring in our step.

As we hiked, we came to the large clearing that had once held a hobgoblin encampment. We had dispatched the foul hobos months ago, so we were not too worried about what awaited us there. But rooting through the remains of the bivouac we saw movement. We tensed, but continued forward unafraid. As we closed we saw a group of neanderthals, crude and simple men with powerful looking bodies. With one hand we waved, greeting them, the other tightened around our weapons as our party smiled and walked past.

At the top of the clearing lies the final path to our destination. A marching order was set, and we started off down the trail. As we closed on our target the trees began to thin. We noticed several plumes of smoke rising into the midday sky, and it seemed they were coming from within the monastery.

Kane quickly scouted ahead and climbed a tree to gain some insight as to what was happening. He’s quite good at that actually. My pointy eared companion could see that within the crumbling walls of the wicked grounds, several large bonfires smouldered into the sky, with several dozen well armored soldiers making ready for some evil scheme. As he looked closer he knew them to be hobgoblins, an army of them, and the King beneath the Hill seems to have plans of his own.

Quickly rejoining us, our comrade told us of the danger that lay ahead. After some debate, we planned an ambush. We dug a large pit in the path, covering it so it could not be seen. In front of the the pit we doused a large area in oil, and behind the pit we braced many staves and spikes, to protect us from attack. As night fell, our work barely completely, we took turns keeping watch, laying in wait to spring our trap.

The night was surprisingly uneventful. Kane returned to his perch in the tree and saw that the army was still within the confines of the monastery. A disagreement arose as to what to do next. I yearned for blood, to kill as many of the foul creatures before swiftly returning to Guido’s Fort and warning its residence of the impending danger. But my companions convinced me that if all these hobos were up where we were, above ground, that we should go and loot below. It seemed clear that Kane’s appetite was whet for small shiny trinkets and things that glitter in the light.

I relented, and we made our way into the brush, skirting the eastern side of the monastery. We had entered the other direction a few times before, so decided another approach was wise. We knew of a secret way in, so we came from behind! We darted through a courtyard, and saw a barricaded door. It appeared our foe did not know of our secret entrance.

We silently entered the dungeon, and as we crept through corridors and through rooms, no enemy was to be found. We carefully made our way down a set of stairs, where only a few days earlier we had encountered a large group of adversaries that had attempted to ambush us. But nothing was there, only ash and dust.

As Kane turned the corner, he heard guttural language, harsh and authoritative, coming from Gareth’s former residence, the forges. We saw a menacing goblin-like creature called a bugbear! It relentlessly whipping several goblins and cruelly ordered them to work the anvils.

Before we could blink, Kane downed four of the vile goblin horde, his arrows finding new homes within the innards of now dead goblins. He’s quite good with a bow as well, it seemed. I then spun around the corner engaging the bugbear while Caasi shattered and crushed the bones of the two final gobos. We made short work of our foe, but one of Kane’s hounds had been gutted by enemy blades. Kane is a hard man, surely. No emotion seeps through his steely glare, as he shed no tears or words of sorrow for his fallen furry compatriot.

We piled the corpses into a cell in the back of the room, a cell that once housed Gareth. We found a little gold as well, but we knew we had to press on. We continued through to the chapel where we had found a secret door on a past adventure with a hole and an iron ladder going down a dozen feet. This is what we had wanted to investigate, as Kane seemed certain riches lay within.

Caasi bravely took the lead down the dark hole. Behind the ladder was a tunnel, only 5 feet high. Ducking down, she fearlessly lead the way, muttering something about gods and ghosts and other unholy creatures. I could not understand her crazed mumblings, but still I followed. After a short distance she discovered a cage with rotting meat and an opening at the top. We surmised this is where over-sized bees had been held before we had destroyed them, a few weeks past.

Unsatisfied with what we had found, Kane lead us through to a long hallway, one that we had seen before that has four iron-banded oak doors, all along the same side of the corridor. We prepared to rush into the first room, but the door was locked. Then the second room as well, and same with the third!

At the forth door we all heard voices, Kane snarled and said they were speaking hobo. We prepared to fight, but this door was also barred to us, so we chose to quietly explore deeper into the dungeon, into the unknown.

We turned and started down the corridor and came to a single door. Entering, we found a large room with two bodies lying face down in the centre. As we came closer we saw they were human, but their faces had been gnawed at by some ghastly creature. We searched the room, Kane looking for secret passages that we believed to be hidden in the walls, and while doing so Kane let out gasp. He said he had tripped over something he could not see!

We searched the area and found a third body, but one not visible to the eye. We were starting to search the poor soul, when from out of the darkness, seemingly out of the wall, a large foul smelling creature descended on us! Before I could react, it scratched at me. Not a major wound, but I lost all feeling and control of my body, falling into a heap on the floor!

My companions fought valiantly, but it was truly Kane’s hounds that brought the beast to its knees, removing several of its limbs in the process. I regained feeling a while later, just as Kane set the creature to burn. He claimed it was healing itself before his eyes, even though Caasi had caved in our enemy’s skull, and this was the only way to kill it.

Returning to the ethereal body, we found a ring. Kane jumped for joy, I kid you not! Apparently he does feel emotion, especially when finding small shiny precious objects. He placed the ring on his finger, and lo, he disappeared! He then removed the ring, and we could see him once again. What magic! He then tried the ring a second time, but we were saddened when nothing happened. Did he break it I wonder? His eyes never moved from the shiny object, and he tells us he’ll keep it hidden, he’ll keep it safe, his precious.

We walked through the hidden aperture where the creature lay in wait, and into another large room, one with yet another door. As we neared this next door, we could all clearly hear high pitched voices behind it. Goblins!

My blood surged. After being downed previously I wanted nothing more than their villainous blood pooling in the dirt! We flung the door open, and Kane dropped four of them before they even turned to face us! We charged the fifth and final goblin, but he somehow managed to worm out of the ruckus and leap down the hallway screaming.

Now, let me tell you friend, we all realized that if this little shit were to raise the alarm, several dozen hobos were above us, which would mean certain death. We gave chase, our lives hanging in the balance, but Kane, who could not miss earlier, seemed to be only able to hit adjacent walls! The goblin screamed and beat on the door that we had heard hobgoblin voices earlier, and he disappeared inside. Caasi and I smashed into the door, but it would not give way. We knew we had to flee, so we turned and ran, Gareth dropping a number of his items to the ground to lighten his load.

We came to a familiar junction. If we turn right, we run out of the dungeon. Left, towards the hobgoblins that had been alerted to our presence. We turned left, steadying ourselves for combat!

Caasi and I took the vanguard position with Kane behind us, his bow and spear at the ready. Our hired companions were ordered back around the way we had come to attempt to flank our opponents.

BARKEEP! MEAD!

Sorry about that. Now, where was I? Oh, yes.

We steeled ourselves as a dozen hobos charged at us from the corridor, a particularly grizzled foe attacking me. But we stood firm! Caasi, who normally is the last to act in any foray, was lightning quick and brutal with her mace, swinging it from side to side, sending enemy after enemy to the afterworld! Kane and I also did our bit, spilling our adversary’s blood, and the three of us were able to carve through the forces of evil with no more than scratches.

Our companions returned while Kane searched body after body, that look in his eye again. They could not find the last goblin, and he was not in this heap of bodies, 11 I counted! We were still in the gravest of danger, and we hastily made our way our of the dungeon and back around to the path towards the clearing.

While in the underbrush, just out of sight of the monastery, we heard yelling. Our pit, we gather, had succeeded in slowing down our pursuers. How I wish I could have seen the looks on their faces!

We ran as best we could towards the river and Boris, the ferryman. We then informed those commanding the garrison of what we saw, hence all of the commotion!

Well, I see that you are tired from my tale of adventure. A good night to you sir, and many thanks for the grog!

Good evening friend! Come and sit! How about a story of cunning and adventure?! And all of it true! Bring us some ale and I will tell you a tale of wonder and courage!

bobloblah
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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Interlude

“…well, then… what did you have in mind?” the question seemed simple enough, and Vandelay seemed open to any answer. Endithas regarded the comparatively slight elf through narrowed eyes.

“I say we go across the river. The witches have not led us astray thus far, and their counsel could help guide us on a course of action.” A slight smile touched Endithas’ lips as he thought back to the women; he could almost smell the mint tea…

His reverie was broken by Caasi shoving him, gently, “Whoa, there, big guy. Shall we get going?”

Endithas looked around to discover the others had left the Lion’s Den, and he and Caasi were alone. The smile fled from his face, and he headed the door with a scowl in its place.

12th to 18th of Fyrmont, AC 999
Characters: Caasi, Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman), Endithas Wolfram, Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Vandelay
Mortal Wounds: none
Deaths: none
Levelled: none

After much discussion, the party crossed the River to consult with the Witches, looking for information on the abandoned cemetery on the Hill, eventually deciding that no great riches were hiding there. They instead headed south, to Kelvin, in order to pick up supplies, and a mule to carry them. The trip was uneventful, the weather hot and humid.

While in Kelvin, Vandelay headed to the Campgrounds in search of work. It was there that he met a man by the name of Stephan, a young entrepreneur from the remote homestead of Sukiskyn. Stephan offered them a job on behalf of his brother, Pyotr, to deliver horses from Sukiskyn to the elven settlement of Rifflian. At 100gp each, Vandelay agreed to the deal, accepting a parchment with the seal of Stephan’s clan as proof.

The group then traveled overland to Helix, on route to Sukiskyn, with the intention of investigating the rumours of walking dead before delivering the horses. Upon arrival, they spoke to Bollo, owner of the Brazen Strumpet tavern, discovering that it was indeed true that many had recently caught sight of the walking dead near the town. Bollo seemed convinced this was the result of tomb-robbers plundering the site of the Barrowmaze, a local legend located out on the Moor.

As the hour grew late, the group moved to the Foul Pheasant next door to the tavern. A drinking and gambling establishment open late into the night, a handful of patrons filled the smoky room, including the local lord, Baronet Krothos “Kell” Kelvin. Endithas Wolfram did his best to ingratiate himself with the young man by joining him in drinking and gambling, but the young noble was eventually removed by a pair of burly bodyguards at the insistence of his balding and soft-spoken advisor.

The next morning the party found the Mercenary’s Guild and met Guildmaster Osen. With a few days to spare before the were scheduled to arrive in Sukiskyn, they hired a guard and guide, one Morgar, from Osen, and headed onto the Moor in search of the Barrowmaze. It soon became apparent that Morgar’s sense of direction was poor, and the party became hopelessly lost for much of the day, one part of the Moor appearing very much like another. Near nightfall, Morgar finally redeemed himself, leading the characters onto rolling high ground, punctuated by the unmistakable hummocks of grave barrows. The party followed a ruined path to set up camp between standing stones surrounding the largest of the barrows.

The night watch was mostly uneventful, but Vandelay was disturbed by what appeared to be lantern, first carried up the ruined path towards them, then out across the barrows, circling the party several times. In the morning, the group slept late to make up for the time spent watching whoever circled their camp. Upon waking, the group headed past the smashed remains of the capstone from the largest barrow and into the tomb below. The chamber below ground had rubble walls, and a conspicuous hole in the middle of the floor, above which was suspended a rope hanging from an iron tripod. The room was searched, and a torch was thrown below, illuminating a crumbling room with at least one exit.

The party descended the rope, then lit more torches. The room above and the room below were both obviously well used, with tracks and trash littering both. Graffiti was scrawled on the walls of the underground chamber, with “Vornath was here,” “the Norse Whisperers,” and “Beware the Minotaur!” being some of the more legible examples. Faded frescos of a burial procession marching to a barrow mound ran round the intact portion of the room’s walls. On one side, the wall had completely collapsed, and on the other stood an arched doorway. The smell of wet rot and something worse filled the air.

Moving through the archway, the party passed a hallway open on their left before coming to two doors on their right. After briefly listening and hearing nothing but the dripping of water, the group forced their way through the near door on their right. A writhing boil of sleek-furred bodies tumbled towards the party as they entered the room. Rats the size of small dogs swarmed around the group, but they were made quick work of, Vandelay creating a shish kabob as he skewered several on his spear. With the rats dispatched, a sack that had once contained food lay torn on the floor. A quick examination revealed that it still contained numerous silver pieces.

Moving to the door on the far side of the dank chamber, Endithas pushed open a door that stood ajar (through which the rats had presumably come). A much larger room stood beyond, but with time not on their side, the group decided to withdraw back to Helix.

Not entirely a bust, but a session spent more on housekeeping activities and a few pure roleplaying encounters than anything leading the party to riches. On the positive side, they have now found the Barrowmaze, and, assuming they could avoid getting lost again, would be able to return and plunder the ancient tombs.

bobloblah
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And Now For Something Completely Different

An Evening with Endithas Wolfram

Session 14, Player Recap

This tale begins, as they often do, with my companions and I making the perilous voyage across the river Shatturgal, to a harsh land fraught with danger and menace. I traveled with Caasi and Vandilay, and our aides Fodora and Erasmus.

I had procured a number of digging implements, shovels and picks, as we first thought to return to the grave in the clearing below the monastery. You see, I had it set in my mind that there was more there than merely grave stones and thornbush. However, after a chat with Rosabella and Rosalinda, it seemed apparent that I was about to lead our group in search of something that does not exist.

After further consideration, it was decided that we would return across the river and turn our attention to the rumours of the undead rising, and these tales were coming from the town of Helix.

Of course, to go to Helix, we needed to first travel to Kelvin. Just outside the city is a merchants market of sorts, though it looks more like a disorganized campground. However, it is a wonderful place to buy a variety of wares.

I bought a donkey and named her Wilemina Mungo Effington. Yes, I know, I know. I have a knack for bequeathing names! I also bought 2 vials of holy water, as this seemed perhaps rather useful were we to meet an undead foe.

As we were wandering through the market, Vandilay struck up a conversation with a man by the name of Stephan. It seemed that he has a brother named Pyotr living south of Helix along the edge of the Dimrak forest. His brother catches wild horses, only those that are completely white though, and he sells them in the elven town of Riflian. He offered us a lot of coin should we agree to transport these horses to this town within a tree. He told us to search for the Sukiskyn farmstead to undertake this task and wrote up a contract with his family seal for us to show his brother, should we meet.

So off to Helix we ventured the next day. It’s an eight mile walk, and it took the morning make our way there. Helix sits on the edge of a land called the Moor. The town was built by Thayatians, but they built upon an older settlement that had been abandoned long ago. Why had this place been abandoned? A mystery, my friend, a mystery. There is only one industry of note, and that is the collecting, drying and distribution of peat.

The town of Helix holds only a couple dozen buildings. The Inn is called the Brazen Strumpet, and I suddenly felt the need for ale as it came into view! The barkeep, Bolo, is a nice enough fellow. But he has a lazy eye that makes it seem at if he’s looking at the other end of the room while in discourse! He told us of the Moor and the dead coming close to the town, but to his knowledge they have not yet ventured within.

After a brief discussion with Bolo, we learned one interesting piece of information; he, and others within the town, believe that it’s the fault of outsiders entering the Barrowmaze that is the cause of the dead coming back to haunt. Could this be the reason? Have adventurers awakened something beneath the peat the once slumbered?

We also learned that Krothos, the son of the Baron of Kelvin, has seen the undead walking. Krothos, that Bolo lovingly calls Kal, though not to his face to be sure, is a bit of a gambler and a lush. He can often be found in the Fowl Pheasant, a den of less repute in Bolo’s cockeyed view, and also right next to the Brazen Strumpet.

Asking where we might hire a guide to help us learn the lay of the land, Bolo pointed us to a building across the way adorned with a symbol of crossed swords upon a shield; the mercenaries guild. We talked with the Guildmaster, a man by the name of Osen. We learned little, but were able to hire a torchbearer named Mooregar.

After agreeing to price and a time to meet our new attendant the next day, we continued on into the town. The most interesting structure of note is a tower on the edge of town that looks remarkably older than the other buildings. It is home to Mazaahs the Magnificent, and even though there was a large ‘do not disturb!’ sign on the front, he took the time to invite us in and discuss the recent events of the town.

Mazzahs is more than a little peculiar in both appearance and manner! One eye larger than the other, he dresses in colourful robes covered in trinkets and baubles. In his office, filled with books of every sort, he explained to us that the Barrowmaze was built by the Nithians, and ancient people that lived in this region long ago. He mentions to us that if we are able to find artifacts within the Barrowmaze, that we should bring them to him.

And what is the Barrowmaze, you ask? A labyrinth of intricate passages and corridors buried within the the earth. One filled with danger and horror.

Our next, and final, destination on what seemed like an endless day; the Fowl Pheasant. A name more appropriate I could not fathom, as we piled into a room filled with travelers and adventurers from all across the kingdom! Though it stank of smoke and ale, the patrons were filled with drunken cheer as they rolled bones and entertained themselves with games of chance.

We quickly caught sight of Krothos, a drunken young lord, seemingly bored with his surroundings and ‘unfortunate’ lot in life. Just behind him stood what seemed to be his warden and protector, a powerful looking man dressed in dark robes and a narrow, canny face. Looking around the room it appeared the Baron’s son had a number of guards at the ready, should the need arise.

I stayed close to Krothos, making bets on the side, always wagering he would win. His luck was not great that night, but mine was no better as I could not get close enough to begin a conversation, though he was certainly too intoxicated at that point that he likely would not have remembered even if we had spoken!

The next day we met Mooregar, and off we trekked into into the Moor. Our young torchbearer was not exactly certain of which direction to follow, and it took perhaps longer than necessary, but we eventually found our way to the barrow mounds.

The area is erie, my friend. Rolling hills in all directions with the remains of ancient structures. The earth is heavy with clay, the air dense. We found a large mound to make camp for the night, and placed four piles of dried peat with torches ready to be lit. We were unsure of our security, and we made ready to defend our position if the dead were to find us this night.

Soon after we lay to rest, Vandilay woke us, a look of foreboding on his face as he peered out into the darkness. He claims he can see a bluish white light in the distance, perhaps a lantern as it continuously vanished before reappearing. However, nothing occurred, the night was still as we gripped our weapons in anticipation.

After a bit we decide to return to sleep as we became weary with the eternal night. But a short time later we were awoken yet again as a distance light was sighted. However, this light differed in one definable aspect; it was yellow in colour, not bluish white as before. But nothing occurred.

The next morning we awoke, but found no clue as to what had created the light. We soon made ready and were quickly rewarded with the appearance with the entrance with the Barrowmaze.

A short stairway descended into the dark. We lit torches and steadied ourselves as we entered into the unknown.

We came into a 50 foot square room with four pillars and a large hole in the middle of the chamber. Above the hole was a tripod, set with a rope down. We dropped a torch into the black depths, and saw that it was a 35 foot drop.

I grasped the rope, which seemed sturdy enough, and climbed down. I entered a 30 foot square room below that had writing scribbled along the walls. I saw ‘Vornath’ and ‘Beware the great Minotaur’ as my companions climbed down into the chamber one by one. I brought a torch closer to the floor and saw that bones littered the hall in all directions.

Footprints to the east were also found, and we saw they lead out of the room through an archway, crumbling with the passage of time. We came to a choice, a passage on the left, or the door on the right. We listened and could hear scuffling behind the door. We steeled ourselves, ready for battle. Entering the room we came across foul smelling vermin, a dozen enormous rats, and they looked at us as if were their next meal!

Battle ensued. The nimble creatures made it difficult for us to combat, and even though I was little help in subduing these monsters, we were able to kill the dozen or so creatures rather quickly. Caasi’s mace was covered in blood, and Vandilay’s spear had parts from several of the creatures skewered along it’s shaft. We found 123 silver pieces, but we knew that time was against us.

That is the end of this chapter my friend, but the tale is far from over!

bobloblah
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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Session 15

There is no Session 15

 

…no, really! There is no Session 15.

bobloblah
Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters Contributor
Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Down amongst the Dead

Careful, overabundance of caution ahead!

Session 16, the Barrowmaze

“We should be heading for Sukiskyn soon…” Endithas began, trailing off as he gazed into his flagon of cheap beer.

“The horse job? Excellent. But I bet we have time for a quick trip out to the Barrowmaze before that!” Belgarath said, fidgeting with barely contained excitement. The mage had only just arrived in Helix himself, and his clothes were mud-spattered from the afternoon rain. He sat with Endithas Wolfram at a table in the Brazen Strumpet, drinking as the pair awaited the arrival of their companions.

Kalasandr pushed through the door of the tavern, glancing around the room. Endithas waved a meaty hand in the air, and Kalasandr hurried over, “Caasi is ill, and will not be coming with us…” he said as he reached the table.

“Is she alright?” Endithas asked, genuine concern showing in his tone.

“She’ll be fine with a few days rest…” Kalasandr assured them, “And what about that elf? What was his name? Vannelay? Vindaloo?”

Endithas pulled a creased parchment bearing a wax seal from his beltpouch, “Vandelay. Said he had other business to attend to. Left me the seal, if we want to head to Sukiskyn.”

“I bet we have time to head out to that ‘Barrowmaze’ place… there could be treasure to be had…”

Kalasandr and Endithas turned to Belgarath, who was still fidgeting with barely contained excitement. A faraway look was in the mage’s eye, and a slow and unpleasant smile had spread across his lips…they could almost hear the clink of coins from behind his reverie.

19th to 20th of Fyrmont, AC 999
Characters: Belgarath, Mearl (Belgarath’s Henchman), 3 Wardogs belonging to Belgarath, Endithas Wolfram, Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr, Solla and Waevryn (Kalasandr’s Henchmen)
Mortal Wounds: None
Deaths: None
Leveled: None

The group headed to see Guildmaster Osen, re-hiring their erstwhile guide and torchbearer, Morgar. The young man had slightly more success in guiding them to the Barrowmaze, only getting mildly lost twice, and they arrived mid-afternoon. They spent some time examining the barrow mounds near the main, ruined path, eventually deciding to explore one slightly to the north that had already been broken open.

A short stair descended into a darkened burial chamber, some 30 feet square. A lone and broken sarcophagus adorned the chamber, making it clear the tomb had already been looted. Still, a careful examination of the interred bones revealed a tarnished gold ring, apparently missed by the previous looters.

Clearly, meagre loot was all they were likely to find in unsealed tombs, but without the necessary tools it would doubtless be difficult to access the barrows that were still sealed. It was decided that they would head for the largest barrow surmounted by menhirs, and attempt to explore further into the ruined chambers below.

The main chamber of the great barrow was as they had left it, iron tripod standing above a hole smashed in the floor, rotting rope hanging into the darkness below. A torch was thrown down, and with Endithas Wolfram in the lead, the party climbed down the rope. Here, too, little had changed from their previous visit: one wall of the chamber had collapsed into a sloped pile of dirt and rubble, and faded frescoes and newer graffiti adorned the walls. The smell of damp and rot was overpowering, and the only sound to break the silence was the faint drip-drip-drip of water. Lighting torches and lanterns, the group slipped into marching order and headed through the only apparent exit from the room.

A passage opened on their left, and the party moved to explore the corridor. Extending some twenty feet, the side-passage ended at a stout wooden door, swollen from the damp conditions. It was here that things started to go off the rails…

The players spent the next hour-and-a-half arguing about how to set up for opening the door in front of them. Not how to open it, mind you, but who should stand where, and holding what, and with whom… I let them argue it out – the one time I gave them a nudge, I was forcefully rebuffed – all the while rolling wandering monster checks, all of which came up empty. Finally, unable to take it any more, Belgarath’s player, who had been becoming increasingly agitated, shouted, “Screw it! I haul the door open! What do I see?”

“Nothing…” I replied, trying not to laugh at the fact that it had taken the better part of two hours to discover this, “…the room appears empty, save for some bones and other unidentifiable debris littering the floor. Would you-”

“I WALK INTO THE ROOM.”

At this, a cacophony broke out from the other two players who wanted to stop Belgarath, but I decided this wasn’t really feasible; the exchange with me, the DM, had taken a split second from Belgarath’s point of view, and the character’s actions would be wholly unexpected by his companions.

Now, to be fair to Belgarath’s player, he was dead tired, and had just come off flying a plane here, there, and everywhere around North America, and had been awake since 2am that morning. He was mostly trying to avoid either falling asleep, or entering a sleep-deprivation-induced delirium.

As Belgarath stepped past the threshold of the doorway, a heavy grinding sound emanated from behind him, and a stone slab rumbled down from the ceiling, sealing the room at his back. What was worse, during the massive argument about entering the room, Belgarath had expressed a desire to avoid being a target in the open corridor by holding a lantern, and the exchange with me left me with the understanding that he had passed off his lantern. He was now trapped in utter darkness, separated from the rest of the party!

“I CAST LIGHT!” the player shouted.

“On what?” I enquired.

“My fingertip!” he replied, in what would prove to be a fateful and fortuitous decision.

As the mage spoke the words of his spell, a grinding noise of stone-on-stone came from the opposite side of the room. Light sprang from his fingertip in time for him to see a stone slab retreating into the ceiling in the far wall of the small chamber, beyond which stood more than half-a-dozen animated Skeletons.

Screaming in fear as he lost bladder control, Belgarath tore open a scroll case at his belt, pulling forth an ancient parchment as the undead advanced. He read the words with trembling voice, the Skeletons crossing the space between them. Suddenly, the magical energies bound to the parchment surged forth, and a mass of thick, sticky strands leapt from ceiling to floor, entrapping the mindless undead. Seven Skeletons now hung trapped in a Web spell, unharmed, but unable to reach their prey. (Belgarath had managed to roll a 6 for Initiative, which was extremely fortunate due to his 5 Dexterity providing a -2 penalty to the roll. The Skeletons rolled a 2 for Initiative, and Belgarath was temporarily saved by his player’s very quick thinking!) As their bony feet scraped on the stone floor, a strand of webbing broke with the sound of a snapping lute string; the Web would not hold them forever, and Belgarath was still trapped in the room with them…

Outside the room, the rest of the party vainly scrabbled at the stone slab, attempting to lift it. They could find no purchase.

Kalasandr began searching the archway and door, frantically seeking some kind of reset mechanism for the trap. His efforts proved fruitless.

Back inside the room, Belgarath calmly considered the situation. He would need a change of robe, but that wasn’t really his most pressing problem. He spent some time searching the floor for the mechanism he had triggered, but his lack of experience with such things meant he didn’t even know what he was looking for. The sound of more strands of the Web breaking interspersed the scrape-scrape of bony feet on the flagstone floor. The mage pulled out his sling, and attempted to smash the immobilised undead. His immense clumsiness meant he would likely run out of sling bullets before destroying them all, and he gave up after bouncing several bullets of the walls with a single hit…

The rest of the party now grew desperate, but Kalasandr had come up with a plan: he tossed his crowbar to Endithas, and the big man (with the help of his filthy manservant, Erasmus) began trying to prise the slab up from the floor. Moments ticked by, Belgarath’s demise becoming more certain by the second. Finally, the crowbar found purchase, and the slab was levered upwards, opening a thin gap at the floor. Waevryn and Solla braced the crowbar as Endithas and Erasmus jammed their fingers into the space and heaved!

…slowly, ever so slowly, the stone slab began to grind upwards. With a great heave, the mighty Endithas jerked the slab above his head, and the party looked past his trembling form to find a calm and very much alive Belgarath stroking his beard as he considered burning the trapped Skeletons before him.

The slab was braced with a spear to take some of the burden off of Endithas, and as he and Erasmus braced the door, Kalasandr, Waevryn and Solla entered the room and dealt with stuck Skeletons. A quick search revealed nothing of value in the room or the dead-end passage beyond, and the party withdrew, at last allowing Endithas to drop the stone back to the floor with a resounding “boom!”.

The noise attracted attention, and as the party moved back to the main corridor, a large, glowing beetle trundled towards them. The large insect was quickly slain by missile fire from Endithas and Solla, and while Belgarath began removing the glowing glands from its carcass, a second side-passage on the left was explored.

Some fifty feet long, the passage turned right at a door, several more doors and a barred archway visible in the new corridor. The nearest door opened into an empty chamber. The next nearest stood ajar, and after the near-death experience with the previous room, the Thief moved to check door, floor, and archway for traps. As Kalasandr leaned into the room to see if a stone slab waited above this door, a massive spider dropped from the thickly webbed ceiling onto his face! He tumbled back with a shout, battering the spider off onto its back (missed its Poisoned Surprise attack with a 1!). Performing a kip-up, Kalasandr moved back, the massive arachnid scuttling forward, narrowly missing the thief again, as Mearl lunged in and impaled the thing through its abdomen with his spear. Its many legs twitched as Mearl shook the carcass from his weapon.

Kalasandr tossed a beetle’s glow-gland up into the webs on the ceiling, watching for the movement of any more spiders. Carefully exploring the rest of the chamber, Kalasandr noted bas relief carvings of the dead marching into the afterlife, as well as the bones of a previous victim of the now-dead spider. Clutched in the skeletal corpse’s grip was a mouldering sack containing 163 ep of old, traladaran mint.

While Kalasandr explored the spider’s lair, Belgarath hacked the arachnid’s head from its body, intent on harvesting any venom. Meanwhile, Endithas checked the chamber behind the portcullis on the opposite side of the hall. Scrawled writing could be seen, but he didn’t bother to read it before the group moved on towards the end of the corridor. The passage terminated in a bricked-over opening, and on the left was a doorway, the shattered remains of its door strewn across the corridor.

Once again, Kalasandr cautiously approached the portal to check for traps. As he neared the opening, a heavy chill could be felt in the air. Inside the open doorway was a slab, a single mouldering skeleton its sole occupant. The remains had obviously been disturbed, and the faint remains of vandalized frescoes could be seen on the walls. Satisfied the opening was safe, Kalasandr stepped across the verge…

Immediately, the temperature dropped sharply, and the Thief’s breath began to cloud in the cold dampness of the tomb. A whirl of mist threaded itself together on the far side of the slab, quickly resolving into the translucent and decaying remains of a warrior. The figure wore strange clothing, and a ghostly sword jutted from a terrible rent in its chest, obviously the source of its demise. The Phantom stretched a spectral arm towards the thief, its jaw distending in an otherworldly scream!

Kalasandr screamed, dropping his lantern as his bladder let go. The others stood shocked as the thief bolted out of the room, running past them in blind panic, until the Phantom came out of the chamber, its movements halting and awkward in way that belied its horrible speed. To a person (and dog, and owl), the remainder of the party panicked and ran. The other lantern was lost, and Endithas even allowed his massive two-handed blade to drop from boneless fingers.

By some terrible twist of fate, as the party ran all but Belgarath turned through the corridors to end up back at the entrance chamber, rope dangling from the faint light above. The Mage, however, ran until his breath burned in his throat, and he collapsed, unable to run any further. He alone carried a light source brighter than the faint glow of the entrance, the Light spell cast upon his own fingertip, and as he regained his wits (and his breath), he found himself in totally unfamiliar surroundings.

Refusing to lay down and die, Belgarath began trying to trace his way back the way he had come. At first he was utterly confused, wandering in a circle (the player seemed to be unable to piece together fairly simple descriptions at first). However, he quickly determined that his flight had mostly or entirely followed the only open path, and he began to work his way backwards, desperate to find the others before his light spell ran out, or something found him! He passed a large, collonaded chamber, and heard a strange rattling from one side. Further on he crossed a pair of partially collapsed rooms, before passing through a door into a corridor he soon recognised as the main passage into the labyrinth…

For a second time this day, the party had virtually given Belgarath up for dead. Everyone had calmed down enough to begin discussing whether to search for his corpse, or abandon his body to its fate. At that moment, the dogs began chafing and whining, eager to head back into the darkness. A few seconds later, a pale and weeping Belgarath stumbled into the chamber. With shouts of joy, the party embraced The Miser. It had been a very near thing, for as Belgarath related his passage through the dark, the glow around his finger winked out.

Clambering back up the rope to the surface, the sun was nearly set. Morgar and the mule were nowhere to be found. A cold and terrifying night was spent on the floor of the great burial mound, and at the first of dawn’s rays, the party headed back to Helix.

Hardrada
Patreon SupporterSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters Backer
Joined: 2015-06-28 02:40
An inspired account. Thanks for sharing this!
bobloblah
Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters Contributor
Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

No problem. Nice to know somebody is reading it!

Maledict
Joined: 2015-07-18 18:59

I can't wait for the next one!

bobloblah
Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters Contributor
Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Ask, and you shall receive!

...eventually, anyway.

bobloblah
Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters Contributor
Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Belgarath's letter to his Master

Session 16, Player recap

Dear Master

I seek your advice and wisdom. Recent events have shaken my confidence somewhat, and I need your assurance that I am following your teachings correctly.

I have been traveling and adventuring with the same group of people you met when I last visited. They are a capable bunch, Cassi the cleric, Kalasandr the thief, Endithas Wolfram the fighter, and Kane the elven ranger, as well as a few others. A few weeks ago, I had agreed to help deliver a calf in Helix. The calf had turned in the mother and it was having difficulty, the cord caught up around its neck. I laboured along side the cow for 22 hours before finally delivering a healthy calf. I was paid well for the work and managed to barter up the price so I could afford the best room at the inn with a hot bath.

I was headed to bed in the wee hours of the morning when Kalasandr and Endithas asked me to go explore the Barrowmaze near Helix. As perhaps my first mistake, I agreed to go, even though I was delirious from lack of sleep. After traveling a few hours, we arrived at a large burial mound rising out of the marsh and grassland, inside of which we found a tripod with an old rope descending into a dark pit.

We went down and discovered an ancient underground dungeon. As we agreed on a marching order I recalled you sage advice, “Belgarath, always stay in the middle of your group. This protects you from attacks, both front and rear.”

I took up a position behind my trusty follower Mearl, Endithas, and our loyal war dogs: Argus the 2nd and Cerberus. Behind me followed Kalasandr and the other henchmen. I passed off my lantern to Mearl as you always advised, so as to have my hands free for spell casting, and to prevent me from being a target. As we explored this dangerous place I could feel the eyes of the place watching us, the intruders creeping into its hidden passageways. You always cautioned me about these places, “Keep quiet and move quickly; those who loiter and cause a ruckus are sure to die.”

After moving along a few corridors, we happened upon a large oak door. I waited for my experienced teammates to open the door, but, to my surprise, an argument started between them about this, the simplest of tasks.

Kalasandr: open the door and check the room for dangers. (moves to open door)
Endithas: Wait, who has a torch?
K: Mearl does. (moves to open door)
E: Wait, what weapons are we going to use?
K: It depends what’s in the room.
E: OK if there is something up close, we use melee weapons; if they're far away, we use ranged.
K: (nods and moves to open door)
E: Wait! Where are the henchmen going to stand?
K: They can stand against the wall.
E: OK...are we ready?
K: Wait! I need to check for traps...(checks for traps)...No traps. Alright? Ready?
E: No, no wait! We need to listen at the door.
K: Do you hear anything?
E: No, I don’t hear anything. Get Mearl to listen see if he hears anything...
Mearl: (listening at the door) I don’t hear anything.
E: OK OK. Let’s stand on either side of the door just in case someone…..

It was at this point that the logic of the situation broke down for me. If anyone was in the room, they would know about us by now because of all the noise we were making - possibly everyone in the whole dungeon would be aware of us now.

It continued:

E: OK, you two stay here and guard the doorway. Attack anything that leaves the room.
K: But, what if you are in the way? We might hit you with our arrows.
E: Good point!
K: OK, you two on your knees at the front, archers standing behind, ready to shoot.
E: Wait, I am not kneeling down. It puts me off balance.
K: Right, good point.
E: OK, what if 3 people are on either side of the doorway, ready to attack, then I open the door with my left hand while quickly jerking my head back at a 45 degree angle so as not to get hit by any arrows?
K: OK. Everyone ready! ...wait who has crossbows?

Master, it was at this point that I just snapped, perhaps my second mistake of the adventure. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, maybe it was the urgency of your words ringing through my head, “Belgarath, keep quiet and move quickly; those who loiter and cause a ruckus are sure to die!” It seemed like a monster was to come upon us at any moment. My companions had fallen into some sort of lunacy, and I wondered if some foul magic was at play. I felt I had to do something bold, and to do it fast if any of us were to survive.

I stepped forward grasped the handle of the door and pushed it open. To my relief, before me was a mostly empty room. A few bones lay in the corner, but no danger. I decided to walk in to the safety of the room hoping, my companions would follow and clear the hallway. But, to my amazement, on my first step into the room I felt a click under my right foot and heard a huge grinding noise at my back. A huge stone slab slid into place behind me. I was in total darkness. Your excellent tutelage coming to mind, I called for the magic of light, and my finger tip glowed like a bright candle. In the light, my horror awaited me. From across the room I saw 7 gruesome skeletons shambling towards me. My bravery shrank to a knot of despair in my stomach, but somehow I managed to fall back to your training, “Always keep your wits about you, Belgarath, panic serves no one!” I knew there was only one thing that could save me.

I reached into my belt pouch and pulled out a scroll with the spell Web on it. I brought forth the magic and spread a sticky barrier between me and the skeletons. After a few minutes, the team worked together (amazingly) and lifted the stone barrier out of the way. The skeletons were dispatched, and we were free to continue.

I go over the encounter again and again, but I feel I acted in the best interests of the party. What matters most is that we all survived. I feel as though I need to return to you for more training. Perhaps you could teach me to use the web magic, as it was critical in saving my life.

Yours Truly

Belgarath

bobloblah
Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters Contributor
Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Patience, most definitely a virtue!

An Evening with Endithas Wolfram

Session 16, Player recap

Oh, hello there friend! Have I a story for you, and one with a valuable lesson to be gleaned and not to be forgotten.

Together with my companions Belgarath and Kalasandr… look over yonder table, notice the two gentlemen, pale in complexion and shivering slightly? Yes, the three of us, along with our aides Erasmus, Mearl, Waevryn and Solla, we ventured into the barrows yesterday.

We began our day here in Helix. We hired a lad by the name of Morgar from Guildmaster Osen, meant to lead us back to the barrows where we had ventured once before. We had intended to spend a part of the day searching the Barrowmaze and then to head towards the Sukiskyn farmstead. You see, we had been tasked with transporting pure white steeds to the elven town of Rifflian. But you know the saying; even the best laid plans…

We got a bit lost on the journey to the barrowmoor, the second time this has happened. But our guide eventually delivered us to our destination.

Next to the entrance into the Barrowmaze were several other mounds, two of which still had their stone caps in place. However, at the furthest mound we noticed half of its capstone lying in the grass, a hole into darkness on the side of the hill while the sun shone warm on our faces. We crept forward to investigate.

Seeing a staircase leading down, and with lanterns in hand we followed the dingy stairs into a mausoleum of sorts. The room was 30 feet square and only 7 feet high! In the centre lay the remains of a stone sarcophagus with the top cast aside and smashed; the bones of its inhabitant were strewn about the room.

Kalasandr searched for hidden inlets and passageways, but found none. Whilst he did so, I strode up to the large cold coffin and peered inside. On first examination, there was nothing but more of the remains of its resident. That’s when I saw it: A slight shimmer from the light cast by the lantern; I spied a ring on the finger of the deceased! I gently took the gem, thanking its former owner for his generosity. What luck that this had not been noticed by those that had first entered! Passing the band around, none of us knew of its value, or if there was some powerful magics locked within.

We decided to move the sarcophagus to see if anything was below, but there was no more to be found. After replacing the casket, we headed back out to the light of day. We quickly looked at the other two capped mounds, but decided that they would be for another adventure. We headed back to the entrance of the Barrowmaze.

Morgar was tasked with staying behind to look after my donkey, Wilemina, as we descended into the dungeon. Kalasandr tied his lantern to the rope and lowered it down ahead of us. The place smelled damp and foul, and the echoes of quiet dripping was all that could be heard over our breathing. We peered closer at the frescoes on the walls; they showed a sullen and melancholy march towards a barrow mound, surely a funeral procession from long ago.

Now, my friend, we come to the crux of our story. We formed ranks, and cautiously made our way into the maze. Veering left into the unknown, we came to the end of a short corridor with a large oak door standing before us. We quietly discussed how to go about venturing within. We decided on an order, checked for signs of any type of machination designed on injuring those unwanted and uninvited. I quietly stood in the vanguard, sweat trickling down my brow and back as those better suited than I took the necessary precautions. More necessary than we had realized.

From the rear of our group came what sounded like shuffling feet and whispered grumblings. Belgarath, our sage and certainly most learned of our group, shouted ‘That’s it!’ and stormed through us all and towards the door, angrily grabbing the latch and moving inside! I could not believe his actions, and neither could my companions, as we all stood frozen in disbelief at his actions.

He turned to look at us, a smirk on his face as if to say that he knew better than we did, when from above we heard a grinding sound. We all looked up to the top of the doorway, only to see a slab of stone rushing towards the ground to trap our hasty mage within! All I saw before it slammed into place was Belgarath’s face, the smirk replaced by stark terror in his wide open eyes!

Kalasandr dove into his satchel, quickly finding what he searched for, a crowbar. He silently handed it to me. From within we heard a scream, and then words of magics being uttered in a shrill and quivering voice. Our friend on the other side was in peril! I dropped to my knees, trying desperately to wedge the tool beneath the large aperture, and with all the strength I could muster, I pulled upwards.

Solla, Waevryn and Mearl leapt under the raised stone slab to aide Belgarath, and to our relief, our friend was fine. He had used his magics to trap his assailants within an enormous web! Bound within were half-a-dozen chattering skeletons, terrifying to behold, their bones clicking together in an unholy cacophony. They were swiftly dispatched, silencing the predators eternally, and the door braced with a spear to allow safe passage out of the room.

Once out of the reach of the door, we stared incredulously at Belgarath. There may have been an unsavoury comment or two uttered in his direction. But as we cursed our companion’s hasty actions, we noticed an orange glow coming from down the corridor, erratically moving from side to side. I drew my bow, as did Mearl, and we fired simultaneously as the largest beetle I’ve ever seen came into view! Our arrows destroyed our attacker, killing it instantly before it could do harm. The noise must have lured it to us. Belgarath, humbled by his blunder, meekly moved forward and began to remove the glowing orbs attached to the creature’s body.

We returned to the corridor from which we had come, and decided to continue on through the dungeon. We came to yet another door, and Kalasandr looked at us, worry creasing his brow. Would another trap be sprung as we ventured within?

He opened the door, cautiously and quietly. From his crouching position he looked inward, and the upward. As he did, a huge spider lunged at him! But with lightening reflexes he was able to deflect the foul creature as Mearl brought his spear down, impaling it, innards spilling out onto the floor.

The danger avoided, we looked into the room, seeing the ceiling covered in thick webbing. Kalasandr took one of the glowing orbs and tossed it into the web. It held firm, and it illuminated the entire nest. Along the walls were intricate carvings of a procession of the dead walking towards the afterlife. It chilled me to look at the images of their blank expressions. Belgarath ran over to the dead spider, giggling and mumbling to himself, in search of glands containing venom, which apparently is quite potent in this eastern Karameikos variety. As he worked on the carcass, the skeleton of an adventurer was found in the room containing a small pouch with a number of electrum pieces within!

After taking the treasure we moved on, cautiously entered the neighbouring chamber, Kalasandr listening and searching for more hidden devices. The room was unnaturally cold, the temperature suddenly dropping. From within we could see a single skeleton lying on a stone slab in the centre of the room, the walls covered with frescoes that had been vandalized. A mist gathered, translucent and certainly not from the world of the living. An ephemeral figure appeared, arms outstretching towards us, a sword impaled through the ghostly creature’s chest!

Kalasandr’s scream could barely be heard over our own, I’m ashamed to say. He was the first to turn and bolt, the rest of us in tow! I dropped my sword, though I didn’t realize it till later, and lanterns and torches were all discarded by our group, such was our fear of the haunt!

We raced back to the start of the Barrowmaze, heaving breaths and recovering our wits. It was several minutes before we realized Belgarath was missing! We hurriedly began to light torches in order to search for our lost companion, but while doing so, Belgarath sprinted into the room clutching his chest, his face stark white from his second ordeal! We all agreed that we had had quite enough for one day. We ascended the godless depths, disheartened and defeated.

Morgar and Wilemina were nowhere to be found when we came to the entrance. An ill-fated end to an inauspicious day, to be sure. What can be learned from this, dear friend? There are a number of lessons, I am sure. But the one that seems to be clear above all others, patience is a virtue of virtues, do not forget this, friend!

And our beloved Begarath has earned a new nickname in addition to the Miser! I now call him the Hasty One, as do the ladies I hear! Hawr hawr hawr!

Buuurp.

bobloblah
Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters Contributor
Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Riverboat!

Up the river without a paddle...

Session 17, Highreach River

“We should buy some equipment, and open some of the un-looted barrows…” Belgarath licked his lips. The Mage always seemed a bit… unseemly… when he was discussing money.

“We do not have the time.” Endithas said, looking at Belgarath with some distaste, “We agreed to do the job for Stephan, and I will keep my commitment.”

“Yes, yes…” the Mage retorted, “Fine, fine! We can buy the equipment now, and then examine the tombs as soon as we get back with the horses.”

“Should we really be carting all that heavy gear around on the boat?” Caasi asked. The rest of the party turned to her in surprise, “I mean… we’re going to hire a boat, right? Since you lot took the time to go out to the Barrowmaze. Do we really want to haul equipment upriver and overland?”

Kalasandr cleared his throat, “Um… no. You know, that’s a really good point. We can buy the gear when we get back, now, can’t we?”

Caasi shrugged, “I’m just saying…”

Belgarath blushed, mumbling something under his breath about easy money, before petulantly declaring, “Oh, fine!” with visions of grave goods still dancing in his head.

22nd to 23rd Fyrmont, AC 999
Characters: Belgarath, Stikini (Belgarath’s Owl Familiar), Mearl (Belgarath’s Henchman), 3 Wardogs belonging to Belgarath, Caasi, Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman), Endithas Wolfram, Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr, Waevryn and Solla (Kalasandr’s Henchmen)
Mortal Wounds: Solla was punctured by arrows (twice!) and fell to the deck, slamming her head into the hull of the boat, suffering minor brain trauma (-2 on magical research and proficiency throws, -10% penalty on earned XP). Waevryn was felled by arrows and had her genitals destroyed by an arrow, a secret she would prefer to keep.
Deaths: None!
Levelled: None!

The party decided against stocking up on shovels, crowbars, hammers, and chisels in advance of an overland journey, and decided they could purchase such tools upon their return. Instead, they headed to the nearby pier on the Highreach River, looking for transport upstream, closer to Sukiskyn. They found an able boatman, one Kelanos, who was ferrying cargo upriver to several of the lumber camps along the edge of the Dymrak Forest. An argument broke out between Belgarath and Kelanos, as the man known by his companions as The Miser haggled until satisfied the fare would come no lower.

The group left and returned to the pier at noon to see Kelanos and his crew finish loading the boat with cargo. As the eight oarsmen took their places, the party clambered aboard with their gear. All of them removed their heavy armor, wary that any fall into the water would prove fatal while so encumbered…

I started the session discussing the hiring of a boat to shave time off their trip, and warned them that falling overboard in heavy armour meant death by drowning.

…the boat launched around the noon hour, with Kelanos assuring his passengers that they would reach the ferry site to disembark before late afternoon.

The first couple hours passed in peaceful conversation. Belgarath, dwelling on the many visions his Familiar has endured, questioned Kelanos sharply about slavers in the area. Kelanos had heard no such rumours, and scoffed at the notion; Guido’s Fort and its problems were far away, and of no concern to him.

As Belgarath turned to discuss the matter with his companions, the boat lurched violently, a grinding noise coming from below the water. The party members stumbled and fell, and Kelanos let out a shout, confused. The boat was in the middle of the river, and he knew these waters well enough to know that no rocks should bar their way.

The clatter and clack of arrows rang out, as a surprise volley from the southern shore landed amongst the passengers. Endithas let out a grunt as an arrow pierced his thigh. They were under attack, ambushed from the shore! As the party looked to the south and attempted to recover their footing, a dozen figures leapt from the bank, splashing into the water, and began swimming towards the boat. Boarders!

Another volley of arrows was loosed against them, as Belgarath moved towards the front of the boat to see what they had struck. Several of the group suffered minor wounds. Worse, the oarsmen had released their oars, and were cowering behind the gunwales, leaving the boat to begin slowly drifting downstream. Below the prow Belgarath spotted the iron links of a chain, strung across the river. They were not going to be able to pass without removing it.

Caasi and Fodora began to move along either side of the boat, frantically trying to get the rowers back to the oars. As they struggled towards the bow, one of the oarsmen leapt up and attempted to stab Caasi with a large knife drawn from his belt! At the last second Caasi spotted her assailant, knocking his blow aside with her arm. The man was then on her, slashing wildly with his blade as Caasi gave ground.

Belgarath turned to the southern shore, and with a few arcane words and gestures, cast Light on the eyes of one of the archers. The man dropped his bow and began clawing at his face, blinded. The remaining archers loosed another volley, and as the arrows rained down amongst them, Solla was felled by an arrow through the shoulder, just below her neck.

The remaining party members finally regained their footing and grabbed their weapons, returning fire. One of the approaching swimmers was struck, slipping below the water, and an archer on shore was killed while knocking an arrow.

Back on the boat, Caasi defended herself from her assailant, but was unable to land a blow in return. Fortunately, Belgarath loosed his hounds with the command to, “Attack!” and his vicious Wardogs charged the traitor, the larger of the two clamping its heavy jaws on his genitals. The man let out an ear-piercing shriek as the two mastiffs bore him to the deck and tore him to pieces.

Arrows continued to fall, and Fodora was struck down, and another archer and two more swimmers were killed by the party’s increasingly accurate return fire. Belgarath screamed instructions at the oarsmen, and Kelanos finally got them back to work, one side rowing forwards, the other backwards. Ever so slowly, the boat moved to present its stern to the archers.

Caasi rushed to tend to her servant, Fodora, while Kalasandr lowered his bow to check on Solla. Upon examination , it appeared Fodora was merely stunned, but Solla had taken an arrow to her helmet and was knocked out.

While the Henchmen were tended to, the rain of arrows paused as the first of the boarders finally began clambering over the rail. Belgarath dispatched the first of these with a Magic Missile, the man’s corpse tumbling back into the river. The others reached the deck and attacked with knives, only to be killed by the party’s counter attack. Moments after the dogs pulled down the last of them, the remainder of the swimmers reached the side of the boat and began boarding. More of the second group were already injured, struck glancing blows by arrows during their swim, and they, too, were quickly dispatched.

As Kalasandr slashed the last of the boarders, severing the fingers of his right hand, the man threw himself overboard to escape, and another volley of arrows fell upon them. Solla, already mortally wounded, was struck by another arrow and fell to the deck again, Caasi immediately rushing to her aid. Waevryn took an arrow to the groin, and waited screaming on the deck until Caasi could leave Solla to attend to her.

Kelanos, having regained command of the situation, had the oarsmen pulling hard for the opposite shore. The boat quickly moved beyond effective bowshot, and the ambushers on the south shore melted into the underbrush. The boat was brought into the shallows, and Kalasandr disembarked to deal with the chain, while Belgarath and Caasi began examining the bodies of the boarders, discovering scars on their wrists and ankles, and a now familiar tattoo of two manacles connected by a chain on their forearms. The slain men appeared to carry nothing else of value.

Once the chain was released and the wounded cared for, the boat pushed off and continued on its way for another hour-and-a-half to Misha’s Ferry. As they approached the small dock and began to unload their gear and an unconscious Solla, Kelanos called out for Misha herself, but received no reply.

“Have no fear, my friends…” Kelanos said, “She often goes out hunting with that mangy bear of hers, but she’ll doubtless return before nightfall. Make yourselves comfortable by the fire in her cabin; I can assure you she will not mind!” As he pushed the boat off from the dock, he turned to speak to the party, “Again, my sincere thanks for dealing with the bandits on the river. We would have been in serious trouble without you. Take care, and swift travels!” and with that, the oarsmen began pulling them on their way upstream.

Taking a few minutes to explore their surroundings, the party quickly determined that the door to the cabin was unlocked, and that there was, indeed, no one around. Belgarath had Stikini scout the area from high in the air, but no one and nothing could be seen, save the green, rolling expanse of the Dymrak Forest stretching away to the south. Satisfied that they were safe for the moment, the party began to settle in to await the arrival of Misha: the Mage managed to catch a rabbit for the soup pot, Endithas started a fire, and Kalasandr chopped wood to replace what they would doubtless burn through the night.

As he worked, the Thief heard a rustling in the undergrowth, and looked up in time to see an enormous bear, easily five times his size, wander out of the underbrush on the other side of the cottage clearing. The bear raised its head, sniffing the air, before catching site of the Thief and, with a grunt, charging! Kalasandr dropped his hatchet and ran for the cabin, barely outpacing the huge animal. He managed to bar the door just before its enormous bulk slammed into the portal, the entire cottage shivering with the impact.

After a moment’s consideration, Belgarath decided to try and appease the animal, offering rabbit carcass out the windows. The bear attempted to rip his arm off for his trouble, but during the process, Belgarath noticed that the bear appeared injured, with numerous small slashes on its back and the top of its head. The bear eventually calmed enough to give up, and wandered off into the woods. Rather unnerved, the party secured the cabin and bedded down for the night, the only disturbance of their slumber the howling of many wolves.

Come the morning, Misha still hadn’t returned, and the group began theorizing wildly, speculating that the bear and Misha were actually one in the same. Belgarath sent his owl Familiar, Stikini, to track the bear. The owl noted that the bear headed off to the north, but his sharp eyes picked out a profusion of other tracks in the vicinity of the cabin: the bear’s erratic tracks from at least two days before, flecked with blood, as if it had lashed about randomly. Even stranger, no tracks of any assailant were found. A similarly erratic set of tracks, perhaps those of Misha, were seen to exit the cabin, move to the dock, and disappear. Once again, no tracks of any attackers were found.

Giving up on the mystery for the moment, the party found the well-marked trail and set out for the hike to Sukiskyn. Strangely, they only decided to heal the most wounded of their number, Solla (who was unconscious), leaving several other party members badly hurt. They made good time on the broad, clear trail, and arrived in the vicinity of Sukisyn that evening in the gloaming. The smell of a fire made their stomachs rumble, but as they continued, the smell grew stronger. Presently, rising smoke could be seen above the trees, with the cries of combat reaching their ears. They began to hustle forward, but as they broke from the trees near a wooden bridge, Goblins adorned with wolf-pelts leapt from the underbrush in ambush, with Mearl and Endithas Wolfram in front, and Erasmus and Waevryn in the second rank being attacked.

The fight was short and vicious, with the already injured Endithas nearly being felled but for a draught of honeyed healing potion, the timely casting of Cure Light Wounds by Caasi, and a well-timed Magic Missile from Belgarath slaying a Goblin. As the party gathered their bearings after the fight, they could see they were at the foot of a wooden bridge across a small river, and that what must surely be the Sukiskyn homestead sat on the far side. The wooden palisade and barn of the homestead were the source of the smoke, with fire spreading up the near side of the building.

“COME WITH ME IF YOU WANT TO LIVE!” shouted a voice from across the river. A woman stood atop the wooden gatehouse on the far side of the river, waving frantically in the party’s direction. The party began to move, then broke into a run as they spotted a troupe of Goblins astride the backs of enormous wolves loping along the far bank. They would be cut off from the homestead’s gate!

It was a near thing with their wounded, but the party managed to make it through the gate ahead of the wolves, as a second person slammed and barred the gate behind them. A cacophony of howling and snarling erupted from outside the palisade, as the frustrated animals vented their anger at being denied fresh prey.

“This way!” shouted the party's saviours, running towards a central stone building. The barn to their left was burning, and fire was starting to spread to the adjoining palisade. The screams of horses could be heard off to the right, and as the party began to follow their new found friends, there was a “Crash!” as the gate on the far side of the courtyard was smashed in. Another groups of Goblins, these ones carrying crude, red-daubed weapons, pushed their way through.

“We’ll handle this…” Kalasandr deadpanned.

“We’ll take the long way…” proclaimed the woman, as she and her companion moved behind the party and around towards the stone building.

The Goblins snarled a challenge, brandishing their bloody-looking weapons over their heads, but were almost immediately cut down to a man (Goblin?) by missile fire. The threat dispatched, Caasi moved to the shattered gate to block the way, discovering a crude battering ram that had been used to smash through. Kalasandr and Endithas liberated one of the doors from the now burning barn, hauling it over, and the three of them placed the door to block the breach, bracing it with the Goblins’ own discarded ram. In the meantime, Belgarath pulled a bucket from the barn, climbed the gatehouse, tossing the bucket over the palisade near the burning side of the barn. He then cast Unseen Servant outside the palisade, and had his invisible minion begin hauling buckets of water from the river to dump them on the spreading fire. The Unseen Servant quickly doused the palisade, but the invisible minion could not throw water very high, and was unable to reach the worst of the flames on the barn itself.

Kalasandr bravely (foolishly?) dodged into the burning barn, seeking a ladder, which he found while losing his eyebrows. He returned to the gatehouse, and passed the ladder up to Belgarath, the Mage pushing it over the wall for his Unseen Servant. Now able to reach the flames on the barn, the Unseen Servant managed to considerably slow the spread of the fire. Nevertheless, it was clear it was only a matter of time before the barn would be consumed, and the magical bucket brigade was only delaying the inevitable.

With the most immediate threats contained, Endithas Wolfram, Erasmus, and Mearl headed behind the stone building to the far side of the compound. Here they found a stable, a smithy, stalls and paddocks; all were empty, the horses gone, and the gate at the back of the pens had been smashed. They also discovered the bodies of two humans, clearly the victims of Goblin violence, presumably killed defending the horses. Moving inside to the second floor of the stone smithy, Endithas spotted the red eyes of Goblins across the river, reflecting the light of the burning barn. He and the Henchmen took a few shots, but the darkness and cover of the forest left them uncertain as to whether or not they had hit anything.

With the burning of the barn slowed, the horses gone, and ominous chanting and drums in the woods, the party (save Belgarath, who had to remain close to his Unseen Servant) regrouped in the main stone building to decide what to do next…

And with that, we broke for the evening, with the time well past midnight. This was one of the more intense sessions we’ve had since this campaign began, and one of the first times the party’s total resources have really been tested, largely due to being unable to return to a friendly port in a storm (e.g. Guido’s Fort). This was also the first time the party ever ended a session unable to return to safety (i.e. trapped in Sukiskyn, surrounded by Goblins). The situation presents new complications, as I have thus far been unwilling to parachute characters in and out of adventures. I’m going to do my best to wait until the same players are available before picking up where this session left off.

Another big highlight of this session for me, personally, was finally (after 25 years!) being able to pull out B10: Night’s Dark Terror, place down the map, and use the included counters to give the party a clear sense of what was happening. I joked about immediately devaluing the module as I punched the counters, but the truth was that I was massively excited to finally use the thing in actual play. It didn’t disappoint!

Maledict
Joined: 2015-07-18 18:59

Always an encouraging read with which to set down to my own session prep. Many thanks.

bobloblah
Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters Contributor
Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Whew! Back after a months-long hiatus due to work and personal stuff. We haven't played in that time, but the session reports posted here are way behind where we actually are, so there are many more to come before the hiatus. I'm looking forward to our first real session since I've resurfaced, coming on Friday, but in the meantime, I'll jut leave this here...

The Siege of Sukiskyn

Session 19, Sukiskyn homestead

The crackle of flames could be heard outside, as well as the intermittent hiss of water on a bonfire.

They were trapped.

“My apologies for the warmth of your welcome!” the man before them said with a wan smile. He was clearly trying to cheer the spirits of those around him. A beautiful, young blond girl sat on the floor behind him, weeping pitifully, a baby cradled in her arms. To the man’s left stood a handsome woman with long, black hair. She wore leather armour over a green dress, and hovered with a protective air at the man’s side. Beside her stood a young boy, wide-eyed, frightened, with more than a passing resemblance to their host – his son perhaps? On the far side of the room stooped an older man, plump and tired-looking, missing his left arm from some terrible wound long ago.

“This is it? Where’s everybody else?” Kalasandr asked.

The man gestured behind the party, “My son, Taras, and his wife, Alfana, you have already met, I think…”

“We found them battling Goblins across the bridge,” the woman, Alfana, began, “nearly cut off by Goblins riding massive wolves! We thought it best we let them in.”

“Thank you for that!” Caasi said, real warmth in her voice, “We were hard pressed.”

The big man, Pyotr, let out a great sigh, “And now, it would seem, your fates are tied to ours.”

“There are more of us…” Kalasandr interjected, “…a mage – he’s trying to put out the fire -” the pause was punctuated by the hissing sound of water poured onto open flame from outside, “Endithas is ’round the back with Erasmus and Mearl, looking for more Goblins.”

“There are many more to be found!” Taras said, spitting on the floor beside him, “Father, I count Wolf-skulls and Red-blades in the woods and around the palisade. Of the Vipers there is no sign, and I no longer hear the horses…” the young man seemed to be near tears at this.

Pyotr glowered, “The Vipers are a cowardly lot, but they seem to have stolen our horses. Novannes and Hakos tried to stop them…” the man stopped himself, visibly upset. The weeping of the girl on the floor grew louder, nearly hysterical, and the woman at Pyotr’s side moved to her, “Shh… come my dear, we must find our strength…”

Pyotr composed himself before continuing, “Her husband and father-in-law were at the stables when the Goblins broke in. I have sent my mother and daughter to the tower,” Pyotr pointed to the north-east, “where there are no doors on the first floor, for defense. We would fall back there if the worst occurs.”

Everyone jumped as a heavy pounding sounded on the wooden door the party had entered through, “It’s a touch warm out here, if you don’t mind!” came Endithas’ rough bellow. The door was opened, and Endithas, Belgarath, and their Henchmen piled through.

“The barn is lost,” the Mage stated flatly, “Though it will take some time to finish burning.” It was another hammer-blow to the morale of the homesteaders.

“Come, then!” Endithas brought his hands together abruptly, the sound filling the space, “Let us prepare our defenses. We will make certain these Goblins pay for their efforts with blood,” the big man’s hard-edged smile held no humour, “theirs!”

The night of the 23rd to the 24th of Fyrmont, AC 999
Characters: Belgarath, Mearl (Belgarath’s Henchman), 2 War Dogs belonging to Belgarath, Caasi, Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman), Endithas Wolfram, Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr, Waevryn and Solla (Kalasandr’s Henchmen)
Mortal Wounds: Belgarath lost an eye to a giant vampire bat, and Waevryn was permanently blinded by a Goblin sling stone
Deaths: Poor, poor Matvey and Kuzma
Levelled: None

The party found themselves trapped in the Sukiskyn homestead with it’s inhabitants. Around them, Goblin war drums and chanting filled the woods, and the glow of red eyes could occasionally be seen amongst the undergrowth. The party surveyed the homestead, and began to plan for its defense. The main building, housing the kitchen and stores, and a nearby tower were built of stone, connected by the main hall, which was constructed of wood. The tower had no entrances on the first floor, and it was here that Pyotr had planned to retreat if things went badly. None of the main buildings had windows on the ground floor, and the doors were solid, and made of oak.

A plan was quickly concocted, with crude furniture barricades being thrown against the doors, and every able archer moving to the second floor. Windows on the second floor, overlooking the breached courtyard and burning barn, would allow a crossfire, turning the area into a deathtrap. Those who could not fight were moved into the tower, with Belgarath and his owl Familiar, Stikini, assuming lookout on the battlements at the top.
sukiskyn_siege.jpg

The party didn’t have to wait long, as shortly after they settled into their positions the gate previously blocked with a barn door and battering ram was again smashed in, a small war-party of Red-blade Goblins whooping and hollering as they loped into the courtyard. They were met with swift death from above, Endithas killing three of them, and Fodora another, before the last realised he had forgotten something in the woods, and quickly headed off to retrieve it.

The drums and chanting began again, filling the woods surrounding the homestead. Over the next few hours, the sounds would intermittently stop, the interminable silence much worse. Tension wore at the nerves of the besieged. Kalasandr took the opportunity to climb out a second-floor window (I didn’t bother with a roll, as it was child’s play for the thief), run across to the broken gate at the back of the horse pens, and lay his recently acquired caltrops. This done, Kalasandr slipped back inside the way he had come.

The fire had mostly burnt itself out, the remains of the barn and gatehouse smouldering fitfully, when the drums and chanting again fell silent. Once again, the party moved to the second-floor windows, eyes straining in the moonlight, looking for any sign of attackers. It was then that a great howling and snarling erupted across the bridge the party had used to enter the compound. Two enormous wolves, large Goblins clutching to their backs, charged across the bridge, with nearly a dozen Goblins on foot racing behind. At the same time, furtive figures could be seen scurrying around the remains of the barn from the north.

(In truth, the barn ruins were probably still far too hot for this, particularly considering how long Belgarath managed to delay them burning down with his Unseen Servant, but I didn’t give this enough thought at the time, and none of my players, not even the one with training as a volunteer smoke-sniffer, noticed.)

The Goblins’ plan quickly became clear, as the two wolf-mounted champions charged the door to the main stone building, and lay into it with two-handed axes! The party and the locals moved to the windows to stop the assault with missile fire, but as they did so, a hail of sling stones was loosed from the score of Goblins skulking in the ruins of the barn. The cover of the homestead's windows was enough, however, and none of them were injured, but the risk of being exposed enough to fire on the group assaulting the door meant risking the slings-stones of their kin. Worse, the axe-wielding Goblin champions took cover behind their wolves as they worked, the snarling beasts shrugging off arrows that would have doubtless felled their masters.

“Oil, get the oil!” Mearl shouted above the din. (Belgarath’s player was mostly playing his Henchman, with his primary character out of spells, a terrible shot at -2 to Attack Throws for 5 Dexterity, and stuck on the roof of the tower. The party had discussed heating oil in a pot in the kitchen in the main stone building, but for some inexplicable reason had thought it best to wait until under attack to heat it!) Caasi raced down to the kitchen, her sling unusable at the available openings (I ruled a sling couldn’t be used at the arrowslits in the tower). She ran into the kitchen, where several of the weaker members of the Sukiskyn household clustered near the hearth, but no oil was yet cooking! There was a heavy splintering sound as part of the door gave way, the huge maw of a wolf briefly trying to force its way through before withdrawing. The axe fell again…

“Out! Out! Everyone, upstairs!” Caasi shouted above the din, ushering them through to the great hall and up to the second floor. She then set about barricading the stairs, hoping to slow down whoever – or whatever – came through the door when it gave way.

The party and their allies on the second floor tried, at risk to themselves, to keep the Goblins from getting in. Under the pelting fire of sling stones, Pyotr was struck several times, stoically ignoring his injuries to return fire. Waevryn was also struck, and took a sling stone to face, collapsing in a froth of blood from her nose. Another volley of arrows from the defenders felled a Goblin Champion, and one of the Dire Wolves. Though injured, the other large Goblin continued hacking, the door and barricade gradually collapsing under the blows of his axe.

With a crash, the door gave way, and one of the Dire Wolves leapt into the building, snarling! The look of triumph on the Goblin Champion’s face was short lived, however, as Erasmus planted an arrow between his shoulder blades, killing him. At the same time, Mearl threw a flask of military oil in front of the door, the flames killing several Goblins and blocking the entrance. The remaining Goblins, seeing their champions and mighty wolves killed, wavered and broke. Those skulking in the burnt out barn withdrew north towards the woods, and those intending to assault the building split and ran in two different directions. The larger group milled about in the courtyard too long, and were cut down by arrow fire. A smaller group of three ran out of sight around the stone building, headed out through the horse pens. Much to their surprise, they ran full tilt over Kalasandr’s caltrops, and were all left injured and hobbling. They still managed to make their way (slowly!) back ’round the building, and slipped out across the bridge, unnoticed.

Screams and cries rang out in the great hall as the massive wolf bounded across the room and began clambering over the makeshift barricade Caasi had set on the stairs. As the huge wolf came over the barricade, it let out a rumbling growl that elicited more screams from Pyotr’s family. Caasi stepped forward, a look of grim determination on her face, raised her ebon mace aloft, and shouted, “You…SHALL NOT…PASS!” bringing her mace down on the beast’s muzzle as it prepared to leap, crushing it’s skull. The massive wolf fell dead at her feet.

(After a depressingly long streak of poor rolls that wouldn’t hit the broad side of a burning barn, Caasi’s player finally turned in a solid Attack Throw and maximum damage, killing the injured wolf. The table erupted in cheers! Unfortunately, this did nothing for her Initiative Rolls for the rest of the night, and she still averaged about a 1.1 on a D6, perpetually going last each round.)

An eerie quiet descended on the household, broken only as the drumming and chanting in the woods resumed. Kalasandr and Caasi tended to Waevryn, who was very badly injured: she had been blinded by the sling stone that had struck her down, and was badly concussed. She would need several weeks of bed rest before she would be up and moving, but even that would not restore her sight.

Endithas and Erasmus checked the bodies of the Goblins, finding a few coins, and then proceeded to pile their corpses in the doorway to bar the shattered portal. A fire was started in the kitchen, tended to by the one-eyed manservant, Stelios, and oil heated in a cauldron. With the realisation that the ground floor likely could not be held against another, more determined assault, the remaining vulnerable members of the group were sent to the top of the tower with Belgarath.

Then the waiting began again, the incessant drumming and chanting wearing on the defenders once more. All seemed calm until midnight approached, when the chanting and drumming again fell silent. As the party tensed, the silence was abruptly broken by screaming. Several members of the group moved to the east-facing windows. Before them in the eastern clearing they could see the Goblins dragging a prisoner, what appeared to be a woman in a yellow dress, along the edge of the treeline.

“No!” shouted Darya, pushing past the others, “Katarina has such a dress… if the Goblins have already attacked the Cherkass homestead…”

“We must not throw off caution…” Pyotr began, laying his hand on her shoulder, but his wife shook it off and turned to the party, nearly sobbing, “PLEASE! You cannot leave her in the hands of those creatures! I BEG YOU!”

Caasi was moved by the woman’s pleas, and with Fodora and Mearl in tow, she moved out to attempt to rescue the woman. As the trio headed across the field, the Goblins holding the woman drew their blades, as if threatening the woman’s demise. With the helpless woman so close and yet so far, Mearl’s temper snapped – he raised his arbalest to his shoulder, and in spite of meagre moonlight, underbrush, and the range, fired a bolt at one of the two despicable Goblins restraining the woman. He had already jammed his foot in the stirrup of the arbalest to recock the bow when the first bolt struck home, piercing the Goblin’s left eye and slaying him instantly! A second bolt followed, and the other Goblin stood, mouth agape, as it arced through air to embed itself in his throat. With confused gurgle, he released the figure in the yellow dress, and collapsed.

(Mearl nailed it, with an Attack Throw of 20, followed by maximum damage! Realising he’d dropped the first Goblin, he rolled to Cleave, following up with an Attack Throw of 17, and nearly maximum damage again! Belgarath’s player, who tends to complain about his Mage a lot, lamented the fact that his main Character could “never do something so useful.” I had to point out that two Magic Missiles would’ve likely done the same without even requiring an Attack Throw, and from the safety of the building. The grass is always greener...)

The trio began shouting as they hustled forward, urging Katarina to come with them. Alas, they were brought up short as “Katarina” looked up from the dead Goblins to stare at them. The leering face of a Hobgoblin looked out at them from beneath a crude wig. Somewhere off to the left, they could still hear what almost sounded like a woman’s screams…

Goblins ran forward from the trees, and the party came under fire from Goblin slingers in the woods. In frustration, Mearl and Fodora fired shots as they began to run, and at least had the satisfaction of seeing the Hobgoblin in the yellow dress fall, a bolt and an arrow in his back. As they began to run in earnest, trying to outdistance the rain of sling stones, arrows flew over their heads back towards the Goblins, Endithas slaying enough of them to discourage pursuit. The three made it back inside, largely unscathed, and the doors were barricaded anew.The defenders grew quiet, realising how easily they’d been duped, and waited for whatever new scheme the Goblins would attempt to end the siege.

A few hours had passed, with the time well past midnight, when the chanting and drumming suddenly reached a fever pitch, and fell silent once more. Again, the party strained at the windows, watching for which direction an attack might come…

(Sadly, Belgarath flubbed his Surprise Roll.)

…but that direction was most unexpected! The beat of leathery wings was their only warning, as five dark shapes swung down before the full moon and fell upon the helpless and vulnerable at the top of the tower. Belgarath was slashed by a great bat’s fangs, and fell to floor, limp and unmoving. (Giant vampire bats, and poor Belgarath failed his Save versus Paralysis.) The vile thing draped its leathery wings across the Mage and began to feed! Pyotr’s mother and son also fell beneath these nightmares given form, but weeping Masha, who had already lost both her husband and father to the Goblins, managed to dodge the foul creatures, and ran screaming down the tower stairs, babe in arms, with two of the great bats at her heels.

Warned they were being attacked from a new direction by Marsha’s screams, Endithas Wolfram ran for the tower stairs. Kalasandr, on the opposite side of the homestead, instead decided on a more… direct route; the Thief once again slipped out a window and clambered onto the roof. Nimbly hopping to his feet, he ran across the roof, and began scaling the outside of the tower! Mearl, knowing his master was in danger, loosed the hounds, who bolted towards the tower faster than any could follow.

Masha managed to stay ahead of the bats, running down to the ground floor of the tower, passing Endithas on her way. The big man blocked the stairwell, arresting the bat’s pursuit, but he then faced the flying horrors and their paralyzing bite alone. As he tried to kill the flying things, Belgarath’s faithful hounds raced past, slipping by on the narrow stair. Fortunately, Endithas’ sturdy armour (and a successful Saving Throw) saw him through (after many rounds of missing). With the bats slain, Endithas charged up the stairs with several other party members close behind.

They burst through the door to the battlements to be greeted by a grisly scene: the bloodsucking fiends had drained the very lifeblood from Kuzma and Matvey, leaving them pale and lifeless. One of them, formerly draped across Belgarath, had been torn apart by the War Dogs. The remaining creatures took to wing as the party charged them, escaping over the battlements towards the main building, and above the defenseless Thief still climbing the side of the tower (“You dick!” were the Player’s exact words to me, but the bats weren’t headed for him…).

The bats flew down and squirmed through one of the second floor open windows, paralysing another party member before they were finally destroyed by Pyotr and Mearl. The party had once again defended the homestead, but at great cost. The bodies of Kuzma and Matvey were moved with the remainder of the non-combatants to the ground floor of the tower. The party neglected to tell victims' family about it, as they were still needed in defense of the homestead. The party could ill afford them being rendered useless by grief.

Another long, slow period of ceaseless drumming and chanting followed. However, as the sky first began to brighten in the east, the sound changed. Much of the drumming and chanting fell away, as if many of the Goblins had given it up. What remained changed entirely, with no drumming, and only a droning, slow chant coming across the eastern clearing. The party braced to hold until dawn. Then shouts went up from both sides of the homestead: from the west, across the bridge and through the burnt out gatehouse, came three of the largest Goblins the party had yet seen. They charged the door and the mound of bodies blocking the way. Far more terrifying, from the semi-dark to the east, a great host of Goblins, perhaps forty or more, boiled forth bearing crude siege ladders…

Endithas, Erasmus, Mearl, and Pyotr fired volley after volley into the great Goblins, as the all others moved to defend the eastern windows. The Goblin leaders were soon slain by the withering hail of missiles, but not before the horde on the other side of th building had thrown up ladders and begun to scale the wall!

Grim determination gripped the party, and they threw all they had at the besieging Red-blades: flaming military oil, arrows, bolts, and boiling cooking oil from the kitchen hearth. Still the Goblins came on, hacking and slashing as they tried to force their way through the windows. With a mighty heave of his rippling muscles, Endithas threw over one of the siege ladders (not having Domains at War handy, I decided a standard Open Doors Throw would do, and Endithas Wolfram gets a +8 due to his 17 Strength!), its occupants falling on their fellows below and crushing them. Caasi cooked dozens more with flaming oil, torching another ladder in the process.

With the assault faltering, the party began loosing missiles into the Goblins below, and their Morale finally broke, the pitiful remains of the Red-blades finally scattering into the pre-dawn light.

True silence descended on Sukiskyn at last! No chanting, no drums, and no cries of battle. As the sun rose, the party surveyed the carnage around the homestead; they were victorious!

Bodies were looted, and costs tallied, as Pyotr and Darya were informed of their great tragedy. The party had defended the homestead, but what had brought on the assault? And why had at least three tribes of Goblins united in such an endeavour?

What an unbelievably epic session! I previously joked about devaluing my module to run this, but even if I’d had to burn it to play it would have been worth it. Everybody had an awesome time (I think), and we went over our usual midnight stop time. Still, I can’t imagine fitting that many crazy-huge battles into a single 5-hour session of 3.x or 4E era D&D. Long live ACKS!

I’ve also realised that, as much as I like writing these session reports, I can’t keep writing epics like this! They just take way too much time (and who knows whether or not anyone reads them), even more so because I have to write them in tiny snippets due to my lack of available time to begin with. Let’s see if I can trim the next one down considerably…

Arman
Joined: 2016-04-12 14:19

5,125 views thus far... I guess somebody reads these, eh?

Meanwhile, this last adventure was beyond epic. Goblins are generally pretty wussy, even en masse, but you managed to make them into a terrifying, blood-thirsty war-band; superb use of timing, creatures, and dramatic narration! Amazing session, and awesome job describing it!

bobloblah
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5,124 bots...and you. Thanks, though!

Honestly, the module is the main reason for the session being so epic. It's a really great module (B10: Night's Dark Terror for Basic D&D)! It does have its problems, particularly with a couple of ridiculous choke points that verge on railroading (I'm looking at you, Loshad), but it sets up a lot of interesting situations, then lets the players loose to try and solve them. It makes an excellent low-level sandbox for ACKS.

Skean
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Maximum 5,123 and I suspect a lot fewer :-)

bobloblah
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Graverobbers

...a little bit of the ol' in-and-out...

Session 18, the Moor

Anyone paying attention (i.e., no one) may notice that this is Session 18, but the previous session was Session 19. This one appears out of sequence because it involved completely different characters on an unrelated foray, and I wanted to keep the events at Sukiskyn together. In the actual event, we couldn't get close to the same crew together two sessions in a row (i.e., Session 17 and the next one), so a different mix of characters did something unrelated, while what I'll call the "main party" remained trapped in Sukiskyn under siege by goblins. Without further ado...

“Well, if you’d like to mount an expedition, I’d suggest we buy some more gear and hire some muscle!” the gnome seemed unreasonably upbeat. There was a certain mischievous gleam that never seemed to leave his eye. It made Vandelay wary.

“While I agree, I am… somewhat short of funds, at the moment, if you see what I mean…” truer words were rarely spoken: Vandelay was flat broke. He had spent his money outfitting for the trip to the The Hill, and that expedition had been a bit of a disaster. He had then found the Barrowmaze, but that trip had only turned up a handful of silver. At least he had survived to be penniless.

“Ah! A bit short on jink, eh?” Tover asked. Vandelay cocked an eyebrow.

“You know…a little down-and-out. Feeling a bit pinched. Skint. Impoverished. Hard up. Insolven-”

“I am well aware of what you mean!” Vandelay interrupted, “I believe I just told you the same…” the elf let out an exasperated sigh, “We will need to obtain further funds to outfit ourselves properly…” Vandelay let the ghost of a smile cross his lips, “…although, I have an idea about that…”

18th to 23rd of Fyrmont, AC 999
Characters: Tover, and Vandelay. Milo (Tover’s Henchman) and Roland (Vandelay’s Henchman) were hired in Kelvin. Larford was hired as a torchbearer by Vandelay (from Guildmaster Osen in Helix) to guide them to the Barrowmaze. The pair of PCs were joined for a second expedition by Kane, Gareth Ironhand (Kane’s Henchman), and Kane’s menagerie of dogs (2 Hunting Dogs and 1 War Dog)
Mortal Wounds: none
Deaths: none
Levelled: none

Tover and Vandelay met in Kelvin, with the intention of heading to Helix, then on to the Moor in search of the Barrowmaze. Unfortunately, both were very short on money, and with no healing in the group, making some quick coin and obtaining hirelings was a priority.

Vandelay hit upon the idea of busking (after a fashion) for money in the main market inside Kelvin’s walls. His first night in the city, he gathered a few stragglers in the market around himself, then cast Summon Berserkers . Four ghostly elven shades appeared to do his bidding.

“And now, witness the blade-skill of elven warriors of old, in a fight… to the death!” Vandelay instructed two of the elven shades to do battle before the shocked crowd. The fight ended quickly, with one impaling the other on an elven greatsword, eliciting shocked gasps and shouts from the onlookers. The scene was repeated by the second two summoned shades, then the final two survivors, who slew each other simultaneously.

A small crowd had gathered by this time, and more than a few coins were thrown to Vandelay, and he retreated with the money before he attracted the attention of the watch. The next night saw a repeat performance, but this time with support from Tovar’s illusion-casting abilities. A much larger crowd gathered, as some word had spread about the performance. The pair handled it well, and managed to leave with even more money than the previous night, well before the watch became involved.

With the money that they made, plus the gold Tover already had, the pair were able to interview several potential Hirelings, and settled on employing Milo, a slow-speaking Traladaran with a saying for every occasion, and Roland, an overly clever Thyatian youth. After stocking up on provisions, the group hired on with the Silver Standard Merchant Caravan Company to raise a few more gold on the trek to Helix. After Billworth paid them for their brief service, they headed to the Decrepit Wizard’s Tower that is home to Mazzahs the Magnificent, hoping for further employment. Unfortunately, Mazzahs was mostly annoyed to see them, and while still willing to pay them for “items of an historical or arcane nature,” offered nothing further. The group retired to the Brazen Strumpet for the night.

The next morning, the party hired a guide and torchbearer named Larford from Guildmaster Osen. Vandelay questioned the youth extensively, trying to be sure the lad knew the way to the Barrowmaze, with hopes of avoiding the time lost on his previous foray to the place. Satisfied Larford knew where he was going, the group marched out of town as the day warmed under a full summer sun.

Sure enough, the party’s guide found his way to the Barrowmaze. The party quickly assessed a few of the barrow mounds near the ruined path, before settling on the closest. Strangely, the nearest tomb’s capstone was intact, but less than an hour’s work with hammer and chisel cracked the slab to the point where the remains could be pushed out of the way. A darkened tunnel led several feet down into the earth, and the stale smell of old mold wafted up from the barrow.

The party quickly entered and searched the tomb, looting the undisturbed bones of its two occupants, laid out on funerary slabs in the darkness. As the ancient pottery was being gathered, Tover, who had remained near the entrance, heard the sounds of someone approaching. The valuables were quickly handed to Larford for safekeeping (fortunately for the party, as this kept the delicate items from being destroyed in the ensuing melee, as Larford spent the battle cowering). Vandelay quickly moved to the entrance with his Henchman, Roland. As Vandelay stole a surreptitious glance beyond the entrance, he spotted four walking corpses, shuffling towards the entrance to the tomb.

“To me, Roland!” the elf shouted, before charging out past the undead, running back towards Helix. At first Tover thought he had been left to his doom, but it quickly became apparent that the canny elf had simply drawn the mindless dead away from the barrow, preventing them from trapping the weaker party members inside. Once he and Roland were a safe distance away, Vandelay had the pair turn and fire at the animated corpses. Getting the idea, Tover and Milo moved out of the barrow to a position where they could fire their own bows without risk of hitting their companions. The stratagem worked, and two of the corpses collapsed, broken by missile fire before getting anywhere near the PCs.

Vandelay and his Henchman then reversed the manoeuvre, running around the remaining shuffling corpses back to rejoin the party, pelting the undead with missiles before finishing them with blade and spear. A few minutes were spent trying to determine where the undead had come from, but the best the party could determine was they had approached from somewhere in the vicinity of large, rune-carved stone monolith, surmounted by a skull, on the other side of the Great Barrow.

With the sun getting low in the sky, and finding themselves potentially ahead of the odds, the party headed back to Helix, arriving well after dark. In their excitement, they decided to disturb Mazzahs, who was none-too-pleased to seem them, given the late hour. They still managed to convince the hedge-wizard to allow them into his tower, and the man looked over the bowls and amphorae they had discovered, offering to buy them for a favourable sum. Delighted at their newfound rush of cash, the group headed to the Brazen Strumpet for the night, only to discover their sometimes-companion Kane in the tavern’s common-room. After exchanging greetings, the elves agreed to join together for another expedition to the Barrowmaze the following day.

This friendly reunion was rudely interrupted but what appeared to be another group of adventurers, an unpleasant lot who the party had heard people call “The Norse Whisperers.” The group seemed to hail entirely from the Northern Reaches, and had an overly large chip on their shoulder. While a fight was avoided, it was clear the this (other) rag-tag band of treasure-hunters was better avoided.

The party headed out early the next morning as the Norse Whisperers slept off the previous night’s drink. Once again, the trip to the vicinity of the Barrowmaze was uneventful, with Larford faultlessly finding his way.

The Obelisk was examined in much more detail. The stone appeared ancient, with faded runes, worn almost beyond legibility, covering its four sides. Topping the pinnacle was a carved skull. None of the party members could decipher the runes. Kane spent some time searching the ground for tracks, but anything older than the animated corpses had become entirely indistinct.

Kane was stationed with his Henchman, Gareth, as well as his dogs, near the obelisk. The remainder of the party headed across the ruined path, past the Great Barrow, and on to the second nearby unopened barrow. As the noise of the attempts to smash it open rang out across the Moor, Kane waited and watched. Some minutes had passed when Kane spotted movement. This, however, came from the path back towards Helix! A scruffy group of cut-throats, desperate-looking men, were moving stealthily towards the rest of the party, clearly trying to keep a barrow between themselves and Kane’s companions.

Staying low, Kane waited until the bandits were about to attack – then arrows fell like rain, and before the men knew what had happened, two of their number lay in the dirt, breathing their last. The bandits turned and launched their own bolts in retaliation, but to no avail. The fight was short-lived, with Kane, Gareth, and his menagerie doing the bulk of the work. The bandits were defeated, stripped of their valuables, and sent on their way, naked.

Returning to the task at hand, the party finished chiselling their way into the tomb. The barrow consisted of a single small chamber, an untouched sarcophagus in the middle of the low room. The lid was forced open, and Kane and Gareth found themselves attacked by another animated corpse, desiccated and moldering. Gareth handily smashed the undead with his warhammer, then the group proceeded to loot the remains, finding a carved jade scarab on a golden chain, and a silver ring in the shape of a shield.

Emerging from the barrow, the group decided it was too late in the day for further tomb-robbing, and headed back to Helix

bobloblah
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Rawhide!

...move em' on, head em' up, cut em' out, ride em' in...

Session 20, Sukiskyn, Dymrak Forest

“I am… looking for someone…” the voice was a raspy whisper.

Bollo, owner of the Brazen Strumpet, looked up from the wooden cup he was polishing. Before him stood a rather humourless looking elf, dressed in muddy traveling clothes.

“Hello there, friend. You were saying something?” Bello said, flashing a completely disarming smile.

The elf’s dour expression didn’t change. He glanced about the bar. These human establishments were all the same: Filthy. He looked back to the man who seemed to be the proprietor, “I am looking for a group of traveling companions: a mage, an older heavy-set warrior, a cleric of the Karameikan Church, and a skinny man dressed in black…”

Bollo’s smile broadened, “Ohhh, I see… not someONE, then?”

Kane’s eyes narrowed as he regarded the barkeep.

“What?” the man responded, feigning mock surprise, “You said you were looking for someONE, but that description was surely of a group of folks!” his eyes twinkled as he smiled.

“Have you… seen them?” asked the humourless elf in that same, rasping whisper.

“Hmmm…” the barkeep made a show of theatrically stroking his chin, “…now, such a group would be hard to miss, wouldn’t it?”

The elf just wouldn’t take the bait. He was more stiff than Valeron, if that could be believed.

“Oh, have it your way, then… two days ago. Headed upriver. Likely headed for Sukiskyn, if I heard right…” Bollo brought the wooden cup he’d been cleaning down with a clatter, and tossed the cloth he’d been using across his shoulder. When he looked back towards the elf, the room was empty… it was his turn to frown. The door stood silently ajar.

“Good riddance to the lot of ya’…” Bollo muttered to himself before turning back to the remainder of his cups.

24th to the 28th of Fyrmont, AC 999
Characters: Endithas Wolfram, Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr, Kane, Gareth Ironhand (Kane’s Henchman), 2 Hunting Dogs and 1 War Dog belonging to Kane
Mortal Wounds: None
Deaths: Erasmus and Gareth Ironhand
Levelled: None

Kane made his way upriver, landing at Misha’s Ferry a couple days behind the rest of the party. The place was deserted, and the tracks in the vicinity were confused: a lone, human-sized figure running erratically out on to the dock and not returning; an enormous beast, perhaps a bear, weaving about the cabin and bleeding as if attacked, but with no other tracks nearby. More hopefully, there was a series of far more recent tracks about the site that appeared more regular, and come the morning he could see that a group very like his companions had taken the main trail to the south-east. Following the trail without incident, the Ranger arrived at Sukiskyn on the afternoon of the 24th.

The reunion with his companions was subdued, as the family of the homestead were still counting and burying their dead, and the party were busy binding wounds and burning foul-smelling mounds of Goblin corpses. With the horses missing, Pyotr’s son, Taras, wanted nothing more than to chase after the Goblin thieves. With Belgarath severely injured, Caasi volunteered to stay and keep an eye on him.

“Might be better if he’d kept his own eye…” Kalasandr deadpanned.

“Shouldn’t we stake the mage and cut off his head?” Kane asked without a trace of humour.

“We should probably wait to see if he turns…” Endithas replied.

“I’m right here!” the Mage responded angrily, sitting up in his bed, “I can hear you!” he finished, the effort sending him into a paroxysm of coughing.

Caasi pushed him back down, “Rest now. Recover your strength.”

Belgarath had been badly wounded and nearly killed a by a giant vampire bat. Pyotr's own mother and young son had not been so lucky, and both were slain by the flying horrors. 

“Why is it so bright in here? Can’t you cover that window?” the Mage whined as he stopped coughing, bringing his hand up to cover his remaining eye. The others exchanged worried looks before heading out into the courtyard. More ill luck had befallen the party that day, as it became clear that the sling bullet that had struck Waevryn’s head had robbed her of her vision. Her injuries necessitated bed rest, yet even so it wasn’t clear if her sight would ever return. Worse still for Kalasandr, his other Henchman, Solla, had decided that the kind of massacre The Siege of Sukiskyn had been was not what she had signed up for, and robbing abandoned tombs would provide a far more palatable ratio of risk to reward. She left shortly after Kane’s arrival.

In spite of their losses, the decision was made to leave with Taras the following morning in pursuit of the stolen horses. Pyotr had promised to reward them handsomely for the recovery of the steeds, with 20gp for each horse returned, and his son apparently knew the local terrain as well as anyone. The remaining able-bodied party members present would accompany him: Endithas, Kalasandr, and Kane, along with their remaining Henchmen. All would ride horses borrowed from Pyotr, including a pony for Gareth.

Kane spent time the next morning examining the tracks around the homestead, noting that there had been a small handful of Goblins (or their kin) present that had stayed apart from the main attack. Near these Kane found a small silver pendant on a chain in the shape of a ruined tower. The elf recognised the symbol as belonging to the hated Yellow-Fang Goblins. Yet none had been seen or recognized during the attack on Sukiskyn. As the group followed the tracks away from the homestead it was clear that the Vipers had headed this way with horses in tow. However, after following the trail of the horses for a mile or two, a new set of tracks approached and merged with those of the Vipers. These new traces had been left by Goblins, too, but were accompanied by a number of enormous wolf tracks. It appeared the Wolfskulls were pursuing their horse-stealing kin. Perhaps the Vipers leaving with the horses hadn’t been part of the Goblins’ plan after all?

The party followed the trail to the east until it left the Dymrak, skirting the edge of the forest along the Moor. The rolling grassland of the Moor stretched away to the east, but the goblin horse-thieves stayed close to the eaves of the forest, heading south-east. The later signs of Wolfskulls stayed with them, and Kane said he was certain they had gained on the Vipers. Near midday, all the tracks abruptly turned south towards the treeline, and their pace quickened. Less than a mile distant in the direction of the tracks, circling on afternoon thermals, the group could make out the shape of carrion birds soaring in circles above the treetops. The party didn’t have far to go…

A few hundred yards beyond the edge of the trees the party came upon the site of a terrible battle. The corpses of Goblins, Horses, and a huge Wolf lay strewn about, the bodies thick with flies. The stink of blood and carrion hung heavy in the air. Most of the Goblin corpses had been stripped, each bearing a distinctive snake tattoo on its cheek, and one particularly tall and obese Goblin dangled from a nearby tree-branch, suspended by a rope around its fat ankles. As the party regarded the carnage, their attention was drawn by movement amongst the dead. A number of large, three-foot-long beetles, interrupted from their meal, scuttled across the dead towards the party, disturbing great clouds of flies as they came. In the same moment, Kane and Endithas spotted movement at the edge of the battle-site: a lone Goblin hopped down from a nearby tree, and attempted to flee! The bulk of the party dismounted to fend off the Beetles, as Endithas, the only skilled horseman in the party, kicked his steed into a gallop and raced after the fleeing Goblin

The group managed to kill a pair of Beetles as the insects approached, but the remainder scuttled into melee. As the Beetles attacked, they let loose with an acrid-smelling spray of vapour from their jaws, but all managed to step back from the horrid mist. The remaining Beetles were quickly dispatched.

Endithas quickly closed the gap to the fleeing Goblin before it could reach the shelter of the heavier woods, and as the horseman drew alongside, he leapt from the saddle, tackling the fleeing Goblin to the ground. The big man soon wrestled the Goblin into submission, and once the rest of the party ran over, the prisoner was bound with ropes and questioned. Fortunately, Gareth Ironhand, the dwarf, was able to put aside his racial enmity for the Goblin, and questioned the prisoner about the events that had transpired. After a frustrating few minutes, it became clear the Goblin was a female, and a member of the Viper clan. The Wolfskulls had caught and attacked the Vipers and stolen horses. No clear picture of what had happened at the battle site emerged, as the prisoner seemed to assert that the Vipers had won the battle! This in spite of the fact that the Viper chieftain was hanging in the clearing from a gibbet.

As it became clear there was little more of use the Goblin could say, a debate ensued as to what to do with the prisoner. Taras quickly tired of the argument, and, enraged by the senseless slaughter of so many of his clan’s horses, he pushed forward and drove his blade through the Goblin’s gullet. Without a word, the party returned to their horses and remounted, determined to follow the tracks of the remaining two-dozen horses.

The track of the horses was easy to follow, and it soon merged with a clear trail that wound its way through the fringe of the forest. A couple hours further on, the party came upon a wooden sign, tacked to a tree at the side of the path:

Miss L. Fyodorll — Equine Entrepreneur — Dealer in Fine Horses

The strange sign offered little to go on, other then the mention of horses. A short time later the trail broke into a sizable open clearing. Across the clearing from the trail sat three covered wagons, the weeds long since grown up around them. Adjacent to these was a large, crudely made paddock. As they rode towards the paddock, they could see thirty-odd horses, two-thirds of them beautiful white stallions. There was little doubt that these were the stolen horses from Sukiskyn!

From out of the wagons strode a tall elven woman wearing a blue robe, “Greetings on this fine day! What brings you to my encampment?”

The party glanced amongst themselves before answering.

“Greetings…you are…Fyodorll, I presume?”

“Indeed I am.” The elven woman replied, her voice surprisingly deep, “You have come looking for horses, no doubt. I have many fine animals you might be interested in.”

Another glance passed between the party members. Finally, Endithas spoke, “Actually… we come seeking horses that were… stolen from us. By Goblins. We followed them here.”

“Ah, I see…” said the elven woman, “…so, you wish to buy them?”

Once again, awkward silence descended as the party looked at each. It was Kalasandr that finally spoke, “Oh, now this is SUCH crap. The horses are stolen, and we’re here for them. How about you just hand them over? Then we don’t have to take them from you!”

Fyodorll smiled slightly, “I… see. Well, I am, of course… reasonable. I did indeed buy the horses from Goblins most recently. I’ll tell you what…” she said, extending her arms in gesture of magnanimity, “I will sell the horses back to you for 50 gold each – the same as I paid the Goblins!”

“Oh, come on!” Kalasandr looked fit to spit, and turned to his companions, “This is such garbage. The horses are stolen, I say we take them, over her body, if need be…”

Endithas raised his hand, trying to calm things, “Now wait. Surely we can come to some kind of agreement? Miss Fyodorll…you said the Goblins just sold the horses to you? Perhaps you can point us in their direction? We can recover your money, you hold the horses for us, and when we return, we can pay you…”

“I am a businesswoman…” the elf replied, “I can make no promises to wait, but, as I said, I would be happy to sell them to you…”

“Come – ON!” shouted Kalasandr, leaning over the pommel of his saddle, “How about we put her in ground and take the horses, now?”

“No. We leave, get the money from the Vipers, come back, and buy the horses!” Endithas was emphatic.

Kalasandr muttered a tirade of insults under his breath, sneering in Fyodorll’s direction. A pair of men had come out of the wagons and were approaching. Fyodorll said something unintelligible, perhaps in elven, while gesturing strangely. Nothing happened.

“Bows at the ready…” came a call from behind them. The party turned their horses, expecting attack. Heavy undergrowth and trees were behind them. The call came again, “…feather them… now!”

“A trick, perhaps…” Kane said, laconically, “Some type of spell?”

Fyodorll was speaking unintelligibly again behind them. They turned in time to see her gesture as she finished speaking, “…quiesco somnium!” pointing at the party. Kalasandr, Erasmus, and Gareth collapsed from their saddles to the ground! Two more men leapt from the covered wagons, and the four of them rushed forward as the party reeled in shock.

After a split second of agonizing indecision, Endithas reached down from his horse to grab Kalasandr and haul him across his saddle. Kane, not nearly as comfortable on horseback, leapt from the saddle to carefully lift Gareth up from the ground and across his saddle, before turning his attention to the elvish sorceress who had enchanted them. Two of the men charged Endithas and Kane, the elf whistling for his hounds to attack. The other two men circled round the outside of the horses. As Erasmus and Gareth lay helpless, their heads were drawn back, and the bandits’ blades were brutally stabbed into the helpless Henchmen’s throats!

WIth a roar, Endithas forced his horse past his immediate attackers and pushed towards the edge of the clearing. Behind him, Kane’s hounds tore into the bandits, savaging the nearest. Taras spurred his horse forward, swinging his axe. Kane swung into the saddle, his teeth clenched in rage, Gareth a dead weight across the horse’s back, “Fall back!” the elf shouted.

Fyodorll drew her bow, and with practiced ease, loosed an arrow. A feathered shaft sprouted from Kane’s side, the Ranger crying out as he pushed his horse to edge of the clearing. The elf woman was fast, almost preternaturally so, and at least as lethal an archer as Kane. Taras continued his desperate battle amongst the bandits, locked in combat. The hounds brought down another bandit, as Kane, deadeye archer, dropped from his horse and fired at the elven Spellsword, and missed! Fyodorll loosed another arrow, striking Kane again, staggering the elf. He was near death!

Shouting in frustration, Endithas brought his shield down against Kalasandr, “How do we WAKE them?!”

Kalasandr jolted awake from the blow to his face and slipped down from the saddle. Endithas immediately turned and spurred his horse back towards Fyodorll, who turned and ran towards the wagons. Kane fired and dropped one of the bandits, then loosed a second arrow towards Fyodorll and striking her robe, but falling back from the armour underneath. Endithas closed the distance, but the Spellsword reached the wagon and leapt inside, leaving Endithas to pull his horse up short. The last of the bandits was felled as Taras was finally able to withdraw, grievously wounded. The party regrouped at the edge of the clearing.

Endithas had gathered Erasmus’ body, “She leapt from the wagon and fled into the woods!” were those tears on the big man’s cheeks?

“We can take what we came for. Let us be gone from here.” The Ranger’s pronouncement sounded hollow.

The party gathered the horses, including eight more beyond the twenty-four white stallions left from those the Vipers had stolen. With heavy hearts, they turned towards Sukiskyn, the return trip uneventful.

Upon their arrival at the homestead, the grim news was relayed, and it was decided it would be far too long before Kelvin could be reached to raise their fallen Henchmen. Unfortunately, more bad news had arrived at Sukiskyn: refugees had arrived from the Ilyakana lumber camp upstream. The camp had been attacked by Goblins the day after Sukiskyn, and destroyed. Worse still, Gregor, boss of the now destroyed lumber camp, explained that Pyotr’s brother, Stephan, had been present conducting business during the attack, and was taken captive by the Wolfskulls!

Things had gone from bad to much more complicated…

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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Off the Beaten Track

An Evening with Endithas Wolfram

Session 21, Sukiskyn, Dymrak Forest

Another player-written summary from Endithas Wolfram's player...

Dear friends, gather round! For I have, once again, a tale to impart! Though the hour is late, my flagon is full, as is my belly. Come, sit with Endithas, and listen.

Tonight’s tale begins as my companions and I returned to the Sukiskyn farmstead. We had been in search of the horses that had been stolen by goblins from the Viper clan and sold to Miss L. Fyodorll, an evil elven merchant. We were able to reclaim the horses, but at great cost; Erasmus and Gareth had fallen during the confrontation and Miss L. had escaped into the woods.

As we neared the farmstead, 24 of the reclaimed white steeds in tow, we could see a small congregation in the front enclosure. Pyotr, chief of the Sukiskyn clan, introduced us to four men, a look of apprehension on his face. These four had only just arrived from a lumber camp to the north east, a camp called Iliykana, and the tale they told was one of evil and destruction. We knew of this camp as Kalenos, the captain of a small transport vessel, was headed there to deliver a shipment of peat just a few days before.

The first man said his name was Gregor, and he was the lumber camp boss. He described a scene of butchery and bloodshed as the camp had been set upon by a goblin war party! Only he, Yuri the smith, and twins named Grisha and Griskal had escaped the attack. Pyotr asked about his brother, Stephan, who had travelled to Iliykana on business. Gregor looked at the ground and told Pyotr that Stephan had survived, but was now a captive of the goblin horde! I asked if Gregor knew what had befallen our friend Kalenos, but he had no answer, having barely made it out alive himself.

I turned to Pyotr, but before I could say anything, he motioned for us to come into the homestead and take refreshment and comfort. A feast would be had that evening in our honour, having returned his horses to the farmstead. There would be time for words later.

Kalasandr leapt back onto his horse. “Give my regards to the Miser and Caasi. I have something urgent that needs tending to. Take care, my friends, and stay safe until I return.” And with that, he sped off across the bridge and into the woods.

Pyotr took us into the hall. We had been there only a few days earlier, defending it and our lives from a goblin attack! Now we had chance to enjoy the well tended room. Pyotr asked if we would like to see the clan treasures, and we readily agreed. This was and honour he was bestowing us, his manners impeccable even under such duress and sadness. We viewed a stuffed eagle and wolf’s head; they looked almost alive as the workmanship was truly exceptional. There were also tapestries, one with the image of a stampede of horses, the other with a colourful geometric pattern. Both were wondrous to behold. Finally, there was a large hunting horn with elaborate carvings along the sides. Caasi, in awe of the oversized spike, said she would like to blow it, bringing a rather muted hush within the room.

The festivities that night did not disappoint! A wonderful feast was prepared. Caasi performed a sermon, though I must admit the parable was a little confusing with imagery of bees and dripping honey. Though I could not understand completely the message, it was most certainly an exciting sermon, and all that listened were roused and invigorated! I also provided some entertainment, and told a tale of wonder and adventure to the good people of Sukiskyn.

As the embers in the fire began to fade most of our hosts began to retire for the night, and so we went to talk to our companion, Belgarath. He had taken a grievous wound during the attack on Sukiskyn, losing his right eye, and was still recovering from the trauma. Though only able to speak in whispers, he talked of Caasi’s new healing methods, a wry smile on his lips. She had remained at Sukiskyn to help heal him.

Belgarath told us of two disturbing visions that his feathery affiliate, Stikini, had recently dreamt. The first vision depicted a scene of horror from the darkest reaches of the mind. Hordes of people, naked and chained to one another, were seen wailing and moaning as they shuffled down a darkened passage. The second vision was of a pair of unseen eyes, ever searching, over cries of bound prisoners. What could these strange admonitions mean? As he detailed the confusing visions that had been told to him, Pyotr entered the room.

Pyotr spoke in an even tone, though we knew that he was filled with grief. His wife and youngest son were dead, and now his brother had been imprisoned, or worse, by goblins. “I would like to offer you half of what we earn on the next shipment of horses,” he said, hoping to maintain our allegiance with gold. “You have succeeded in defending us from the swarm, as well as returning most of our horses, the livelihood of this small community. Accept my offer, I beg you, and return my brother to me.” I looked at Caasi, Kane and Belgarath and I knew that my companions felt as I did. Our fates were somehow tied to those at the Sukiskyn farmstead, and we would indeed grant them our aid. No bargains or talk of money was needed, all that mattered was to search for Stephan, and perhaps slay those responsible!

The next day we buried Erasmus and Gareth at the edge of the clearing. The babbling brook and shade from a large oak made for a good resting place. As Caasi said a few words for our fallen comrades, I felt that they would be at peace here. We bid them farewell and set out towards the lumber camp, Iliyakana. Gregor had said it was further up the Volaga to the north east, and might take a couple of days through the woods. As we mounted our horses Taras asked us if we should stop at any of the other homesteads along the Volaga, as he was joining us this day. We decided to head directly to Iliykana, and on the way back look in on the other outposts. Time was of the essence.

We rode through the Dymrak Forest, moving as quickly as we could. But night was soon to find us, and we needed to bed down and make camp as we were losing light. We camped in the thick woods, and soon gave in to sleep.

It seemed I had just closed my eyes when I was sharply awoken by rough hands. Though I could see little, I did notice that my companions were awake, and seemingly ready for battle. That’s when I heard it, a loud thumping sound coming towards us, as some unknown behemoth made its way through the woods in our direction! I grabbed the hilt of my sword and crouched, ready for whatever may be lurking in the woods beyond.

From just behind the trees a booming voice resonated, “What you DO!?!” We were all terrified, for only an enormous creature could make such a sound! I called back, as politely as I could, asking for the beast’s forgiveness and that we didn’t know we were trespassing. I quickly rummaged through our bags and pulled as many provisions and wine as I could find, asking if our gargantuan host was perhaps hungry? I stepped forward, offering it dinner. From behind the tree a hand the size of a man lay down in front of me. Such a creature I can only imagine to been ten times the height of a man, judging by the size of its hand! I placed the food, almost all that we had brought, into the giant’s palm. I heard munching sounds and grunts, followed by sloshing and gulping. I asked the creature how the food was, to which we received a hearty “GOOD!” The behemoth, satisfied, turned and left the area. We never really saw more than the outline of the monster, but we saw its footprints the next morning, and they were a meter long!

The next day we head towards the lumber camp, and around noon it came into view through a break in the trees. As we approached, the devastation became apparent. It was a massacre, with charred remains of both human and goblin littering the camp grounds. The palisades had been torn down and burned, and a very familiar ship had been sunk at the dock. It was Kalenos’ barge, and little of it remained afloat.

Kane, our trusty elven ranger, set about the business of examining the tracks within and around the camp. It was then, crouched and analyzing the ground, that he first heard it, someone muttering, deeper within the camp. He crept stealthily to investigate, and he soon saw a figure walking around, obviously agitated. Taras, having followed Kane towards the sounds, saw a man that he recognized; Kalenos, the captain of the river barge! Taras called out to him, but what happened next we could not have guessed!

Kalenos turned towards Taras, his face red and contorted with rage and madness, before running in the opposite direction and out of sight. I was still on my horse and pursued, finding our friend Kalenos hacking away at a tree a short distance away. As I approached, he bent down and picked up a bow, firing an arrow at me! His aim was true, but even though I was injured I continued in pursuit, yelling at our friend that he was not in danger and we were here to help. I leapt off my horse as I neared, but he was intent on escape, and continued though the trees and in the Dymrak. Caasi, fearing violence in the man, took this opportunity to use her sling, finding its mark. But insanity must have infected his mind, for he now leapt behind the trees and beyond.

Mounting my horse I summoned my companions to give chase; we mustn’t lose him in the woods! Kane knew what to look for and easily tracked him. We soon found Kalenos in a clearing, doubled over besides a tree stump, gasping for air. Kane, advancing, threw a net over him, and we wrestled him to the ground. He struggled and uttered mindless words, until Caasi, using magics given to her from her God, gently touched his face. Kalenos instantly became calm, the insanity extinguished, at least for the moment. We bound him, as Caasi said the madness would return, and she was right, for he soon began to moan and cry inhuman words.

We found nothing else at Iliyakana, but Kane did explain that there were two groups of goblins that had attacked, and one with wolves. It must have been the Red blades and the Wolf Skulls! It was the same groups of goblins that had attacked the Sukiskyn just days before! After a quick discussion we decided to continue our search at the Churkas farmstead, and we followed the Volaga River south west towards it.

The way was treacherous, and we even lost a horse to injury. But soon enough we had pushed through the wilderness to the Churkas farmstead, but what we found was more death and devastation. The goblins had been here as well, and made short work of the place. Kane closely analyzed the tracks, and he said that a set of prints moved away into the bush. We decided to send Taras back to Sukiskyn with Kalenos and that the rest of us would follow the tracks, but the trail was soon cold, so we followed Taras back to Sukiskyn.

Back at the farmstead we passed on the news of destruction. Pyotr looked concerned, his brother’s welfare certainly on his mind. Irena, one of the Sukiskyn clan, said that Kalenos’ mind was broken, and she was unsure if he would ever recover.

After replenishing our supplies, we soon headed back out into the wilderness. Checking in on other homesteads and camps was now all that mattered. We looked in on the Hokol farmstead, south west of Churkas, and the Sielo lumber camp, a little past Iliyakana. All we found was death. Not a single living person remained, and we returned to Sukiskyn saddened at our discovery.

Our spirits raised as we saw that Belgarath was up and about! He listened to our findings and suggested we head towards the camp we had encountered Miss L. Fyodorll. We could track the Vipers, and perhaps exact some vengeance! Doing as he suggested, we came to the Equine Entrepreneur’s camp after a day of riding. Nothing had disturbed the corral and wagons since we were last there. Now we hoped that Kane could pick up the Vipers’ scent, and lead us to their settlement.

Kane was soon in pursuit of the foul swine, heading east and deeper in the Dymrak. As we bed down for the night a discussion on whether or not we should head towards the Segenyev mining camp or continue on towards the Vipers nest. At dawn, we continued to follow the trail; finding the Vipers our sole purpose.

After a few hours we came to a steep embankment with a bubbling brook below. Kane motioned for us to be silent, as he believed our foe to be in the vicinity. Caasi climbed down to investigate, and soon found an opening in the side of the mound. We tied the horses up in the woods, and made our way down the embankment. A few meters into the hole we came to a florescent green door with the image of a snake carved into the wood. Our search for the Vipers was at an end.

The door was bolted from the other side. We silently looked at one another, knowing that we would need to either find another way or break this door down. Mearl and Kane took their hounds, and soon had found another entrance hidden behind the bushes in the side of a hill 100 meters from the first entrance. We lit torches and lanterns, and entered, ready to battle.

The tunnel was dank and dreary and smelled of earth. I had to crouch to continue, and the path wound its way through the earth like a serpent. I took the vanguard position with Mearl, and suddenly the ground gave way and I fell! It was a deep drop, and I hit the bottom hard, but was none the worse for wear. I’d fallen into a pit trap, the bones of previous victims proof of its danger. Caasi helped me out of the pit and used her skills and magics to heal me. A little shaken and moving a little more cautiously, we continued our descent into the dark.

We turned a corner and entered a large chamber illuminated by two large iron braziers. Ten of the foul creatures lay in wait as we entered the hollow, throwing daggers as we closed! Snakes lay all around between us and our foe!

I gripped my bow and loosed three arrows, dropping two of our foe as one of them threw a large snake right at me! It bit my leg and I grimaced from the pain. Mearl, steady with his bow also ended two goblins as they charged towards us. Belgarath used his magics and arrows leapt from his fingers and the rest of our party engaged the deadly enemy.

One of the snakes slithered up to Belgarath, but the fearless miser sliced the serpents head off as it attacked! I was not as lucky, as the snake that had attacked me coiled itself around my leg and squeezed! I almost screamed from the excruciating pain, but Caasi struck the life from the vile creature, saving me once again. I then picked up my sword and charged the final snake, taking its head as trophy.

The last survivor, a goblin significantly larger than the rest, turned and ran out of the room. Kane notched an arrow and bore it into the fiend’s back, but still it ran. Sprinting after the villain, Kane ordered his dogs to attack the lone Viper. We followed it down the corridor, finding a trail of blood behind it. We came into a room with two doors, and blood leading us to the one on the right.

We regrouped and followed the fresh trail down a winding corridor, passing openings and doors. I was leading the way as we entered another sizable room, only to be met by the sting of steel as a dagger cut my arm. A number of them lay in wait behind a barrier, cowardly little villains. I raised my bow and released an arrow, finding a new home in the head of one of them, but two more daggers cut into me. I had been injured so many times; I was finally slowed by the multitude of wounds and gashes.

Kane then took aim with his bow and killed another goblin as Belgarath sent his dogs over the barrier. We could see little, but heard high pitched shrieks as the pack tore the little bastards limb from limb. We could make our one of their number turning to run, but the hounds followed close behind. Climbing over the barricade, we arrived seconds later to find all of Belgarath’s hounds sitting attentively, yet surrounded by carnage, a hand still gripping the latch to the door, its body on the other side of the room.

And that, my friends, was the end of the Vipers, and is almost the end of our story, only one last point to mention. As we rummaged through the dirty belongings we came across a small, yet well made chest, one no bigger than a breadbox. It was locked, but we were all certain that valuables lay within. Kane could not open it, and without a word, handed it to Caasi. She looked at him, and then to Belgarath, and they both nodded as she raised her mace. I yelled at her to stop, that this was madness and that she should be patient! But alas, she brought her baton down on the fragile container.

It shattered, and we gathered closer to look at what lay within, only to see thick liquid spill out of broken jars. Some platinum was found within the broken glass and ooze, but miraculously one jar remained! I picked it up and cradled the jar, not allowing any more harm to come to the goo!

So, dear friends, we come to the end of our tale, as my flagon is now empty! Ha!

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