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Author Topic: DaveTheMagicWeasel's Crown of Shadows  (Read 25313 times)
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DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« on: November 14, 2010, 03:31:24 PM »

Hello all,

Started DMing my second Midnight Campaign (first one only lasted a couple of sessions) running through Crown of Shadows.  Had the first session last week and planning the 2nd now.

Five players in the group, but one of them couldn't make the first session and is now on holiday, leaving us with 4 for now.

Houserules

Most noticeable change is the use of a Condition Track a la Star Wars Saga Edition.  My players like a bit of 'realism' about their combats so we've played around with all sorts of wounding rules.  Imo the Condition Track is the best as the penalties are short-lived, unless you get knocked unconscious/dying in which case they stick with you.  I also anticipate it being useful when dealing with Forced Marching, hot/cold weather, malnourishment, etc.

Should also point out that I've given each character access to one Tome Feat - too powerful as a complete system for the Midnight Setting, but by giving them one each it gives them all a distinctive Combat Style.

Cast of Characters

Thran, Dragonblooded Dwarf Hermetic Channeler
Going for a master of stone/lava/fire themed character and heading for Dwarven Loremaster PrC.  Offered him a background whereby he is an apprentice Loremaster in training, destined for a position on the ruling Council which the player has got quite excited about.  Should make the destruction of Durgis Rock even more of a shock Grin
I'm letting him have a house-ruled Master of Elements to command earth & fire elementals as his tradition gift later on.  Tried to push him towards DoomedHero's Fireborn as well but he thought it was "too powerful".

Eondir, Erenlander Tactician Wildlander
Character concept was "like a cross between Aragorn and Gandalf" - meaning a Wildlander taking Magecraft and heading for Warrior Arcanist PrC.  Offered him a Channeled Magic version of Mystic Blade which player now intends to multiclass into.  Played by our group's usual DM who took over when I was feeling a bit burnt out a few years ago (never intended to take this long a break from it, but life rather got in the way).
Grew up as adopted son of a human refugee in Durgis Rock and now works with Dunkin patrolling the mountains.

Eldiran, Quickened Snow Elf True Archer
A bit light on background so far, concept mainly revolved around the fact that Icewood Bows are awesome.  Replacing Bayal amongst the Elves as they travel to Durgis Rock.

Hrothgar, Mountainborn Chanceborn Dorn Barbarian
New player to D&D that I'm introducing to the game.  Asked me to create him a reckless and headstrong character who, quote, "will get the party into all sorts of trouble with his temper".  Showed him the Tome feats and he picked Juggernaut, so later on I'm planning on making the Dwarves they meet outside of Parduum Holdfast Dungeoncrasher Fighters and have them offer to teach him the technique.  Wields a vardatch.  Prior to his service as Wendell's bodyguard he served in the armies of the Shadow, and still bears the mark of Izrador branded on his flesh.  The weight of his conscience proved too much for him to bear and he deserted, seeking what he thought would be a quiet retirement as Wendell's bodyguard.  None of the group (including Wendell) yet know of his past.
Oh, and he's also the rightful heir to leadership of House Davin.  Oldest trick in the book, but there's a reason it's a classic.

Fairweight, Dragonblooded Gnome Charismatic Channeler
Another character a little light on background atm, the player is new to D&D, but is a WoW player and asked to be a buffer spellcaster, so Charismatic Channeler seemed the best fit.  Seemed to enjoy being Wendell and opted to be a Gnome himself.  Makes it 3 out of 5 party members who have the Magecraft feat - which is bound to bring Astirax onto their trail sooner or later mrgreen, works out alright though as it gives the party a bit of a "face" character, which they were lacking otherwise (except for Wendell).
Mechanically speaking, has Enlarge Person and Summon Monster I as spells known so far (yes, I know Summon Monster is technically unavailable for now, but I've bent the rules/given extra stuff to the rest of them so did the same for Fairweight.  Besides, I dislike the Greater Spellcasting part of what is otherwise a good magic system - a lot of the best Conj/Evoc spells are in Lesser Conj/Evoc anyway, and the very idea of charging people twice for Evocation when the best school - Transmutation - costs one feat is downright insulting afaic!)

Session 1

Large part of the first session was taken up by character creation.  After that, started the party off in separate groups and switched between the two.

First up was Thran and Eondir.  Didn't want to have them spend too much time wandering round town with the other two players waiting so jumped straight into them being summoned before Woden.  The Dorthane informed them of an important mission - they were to go with Dunkin to meet a group of important emissaries travelling from afar.  Thran had long-advocated a more aggressive posture against the Shadow so was only too delighted to agree but as they discussed the details of the trip the doors to the hall burst open as a drunken Modi burst in calling on Woden to face him in a challenge, his wife Strimsa shouting encouragement.  Lognar Broadchest, Master of Arms and Champion of the Dorthane stepped forward and accepted the challenge on his Dorthane's behalf, knocking Modi unconscious with a single blow of his massive fist as the Councilor charged him, settling the dispute beyond all doubt (the players reasoned that it would be a social faux pas for them to intervene).

As Modi's unconscious form was being dragged from the Hall by Woden's guards Thran and Eondir left to gather provisions ready to depart at first light, Woden's invitation to dine at his hall that night ringing in their ears.

Cut to the Elves

Next scene started with Rhiann, Eirinn and Eldiran coming ashore from a small rowing boat in the dim light of the early dawn.  The rowing boat then promptly turned around and headed back out to the Norfall Pirate ship in the background.  The Elves were expecting to meet a contact that the Pirates had arranged who would guide them to Durgis Rock.

This deep into enemy territory stealth seemed advisable, so Eldiran crept forward alone to scout the area.

Several Spot, Listen, Hide and Move Silently checks later and Eldiran spots a Gnome and burly Human scanning the shoreline from the treeline.  Confident they were the guides he sought he stepped out before them and bid them greeting, at which point it became apparent neither of them spoke Elven.  Several minutes of frustration ensued as an incresingly red-faced Gnome screamed at the Elf in a barrage of languages.  The Elf understood none of it, the Human hardly any, so both were nervously fingering their weapons when another figure hustled forward open palms showing and shouted a greeting to the Gnome in Old Dwarven, "Hail Dwarves and friends alike, do you hail from The Stone?"

Wendell visibly relaxed as he returned the recognition signal he'd been given "Hail Elves and friends alike, do you hail from The Tree?"

As another elf, a long-bladed sword strapped to his back approached behind, the first figure drew back its cloak to reveal a cascade of red hair framing a beautifully formed face, and eyes of the deepest black...

Cut to Dwarves

Dunkin, Thran and Eondir set off the next morning, heading to Kurgan Falls via the High Road, a winding trail passing high over the peaks which should see them avoid any Orc patrols.

First day was uneventful but the second saw the trail becoming increasingly treacherous.  As they rounded one particularly narrow bend, Thran slipped on the edge of the cliff sending a shower of small stones tumbling into the chasm below.  Eondir's quick reactions saved the Dwarf from a nasty fall, but just as they all breathed a sigh of relief they heard a low snarling up ahead - a pair of half-starved Orts rounded the bend...

Cut to Elves

Cue travel montage.  Erethor Tea, Rhiann doing lots of meditating and communing, seemingly talking to the amber medallion she wore round he neck, while the perenially silent Eirinn and Eldiran stood watch over her.  Rhiann frequently changing direction based on visions of orc patrols and Wendell getting frustrated at the delays she causes.

Montage ends a couple of months later as the group trek through the foothills of the Kaladruns.  Eldiran and Hrothgar scouting up ahead spotted a Deer grazing in a valley.  With a distance still to travel the group was in need of food for the journey so Eldiran notched an arrow to his bow and crept forwards.  His first shot was wild and high, spooking the Deer and causing it to run, but by following the tracks the Snow Elf found it grazing once more and this time put it down with a single shot.

However, as he walked towards the prone deer to deliver a killing blow and butcher the carcass he spotted a leopard prowling through the undergrowth.  It had seemingly been stalking the deer as well and now loped out from the treeline snarling at the Elf, attempting to claim his kill for its own dinner...

The First Fight

So, with both groups hitting combat at the same time I divided the battlemap into two separate fight zones and had everyone roll initiatives together so that the action would flit between the two scenes.

The idea didn't work as smoothly as I'd hoped, mainly because Eldiran and Hrothgar put the leopard down in a mere 2 rounds, though not before the leopard had charged Eldiran and left him close to death.

Meanwhile, fighting on a narrow trail, the Dwarven group struggled.  Thran was at the back unable to use his preferred Burning Hands spell, and both Dunkin and Eondir rolled very badly on their checks to resist being tripped by the Orts.  Both Wildlanders were knocked unconscious by the creatures before Thran finally unleashed the flames and slew the last creature.

As a triumphant Eldiran butchered both the Deer carcass for meat and the leopard carcass for its fine pelt, the badly mauled Dwarf group declined to attempt to butcher the Orts, preferring to limp onwards to the first spot at which they could strike camp and lick their wounds.

The next day they continued on and reached their destination, Kurgan Falls.  thanks to some downright paranoid preparation for the descent their Climb down to the watchtower was uneventful and they made camp in old watchtower.

After three days camping there, conveniently enough time for Dunkin and Eondir to have fully recovered, they were met one evening by the Elves and their Gnomish guide and his taciturn bodyguard.  They joined the group by their campfire and made their introductions.  Eondir and Thran insisted that their guests all get a good night's sleep after their journey and that they would handle watch duties between themselves.

Shortly before dawn Eondir spotted movement coming up the trail.  As the first ray of sunlight penetrated the tree canopy he caught sight of an Orc heading towards their campsite.  Hurrying back to the tower to rouse his companions he caught sight of a dark hulking shape walking behind the Orc...

[I had intended to run the Kurgun Falls encounter in the first session but we ran a bit later than I expected so left it as a cliffhanger.  Session 2 should be sometime this week.]
« Last Edit: February 24, 2011, 04:40:44 PM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2011, 10:17:14 AM »

Right, Christmas rather got in the way but we had session number 4 last night so I should really get this updated:

Session 2: The Lake Troll

Eondir swiftly roused the rest of the group and alerted them to the approaching horde.  As they busied themselves gathering up their belongings ready to make a run for it Rhiann stepped forward, leaving her bodyguards to collect her belongings for her.  As she chanted in a progressively deeper voice the sound of the wind whipping around the tower walls could be heard growing over the din of the waterfall.

The rest of the group hunkered down behind the tower walls in defensive positions, blocking the two entrances, while Eldiran climbed into what remained of the upper floor to gain a better vantage point for his arrows.  As Rhiann finished her incantation the wind increased in strength further still, a fierce gale blasting through the valley ripping trees up by their roots and sending boulders crashing down in a landslide.

As the dust cleared it revealed the mountain pass blocked by the landslide as Rhiann collapsed from the exertion of her efforts.  1 Orc and 6 goblins had survived the carnage, along with one of the hulking monstrosities the goblins were goading forward and had already made the bridge, with the trail home on the other side there was nothing for it but to stand and fight and the party loosed a volley of arrows and sling shots into the darkness, met by a volley of javelins from the goblins, though neither side had much success in the omnipresent dark.

Whispering softly to himself, "Ah-ray" Eirinn used his own abilities to ligbt his sword up, illuminating the scene.  The light revealed the party's first good look at the hulking beast - 8 foot tall with a gait like a gorillas, long arms each ending in 3 huge claws, and a mottled hide covered in a criss-cross of scars.  Dunkin and the Elves recognised it for what it was - a Lake Troll, near mindless beasts used by Izrador as shock troops.

The beast recoiled from the light, but goaded on by its goblin handlers it let loose a terrifying roar and charged straight for the noble Elf, Orcs and Goblins following it in an all-out assault.

At the side entrance the party soon gained the upper hand, Eondir's sword sliced through the Orcs belly, Thran's magic hurled stones through the air, and even Wendell scored a hit with what can best be described as a potato peeler.  But, at the main entrance the Troll's brutal assault caused far more problems, Eldrian's arrows, Hrothgar's vardatch and Dunkin's urutuk hatchet all took great chunks out of the creatures' flesh, but the beast kept coming and its wounds healed almost as quickly as they could be caused.  Only Eirinn's sword seemed to make much impression on the beast, smoke rising from jagged wounds and a burning sensation filling their nostrils.

The beast's giant claws caused devastation, Dunkin and Hrothgar both falling before its assault before, finally, as Eondir and Thran charged it in the rear, it dropped to the floor.  Despite that the beast could still be seen twitching - it wasn't dead yet!  With one last blow Eirinn plunged his shining sword into the beast's brain and its movement stopped, at least, for now...

Rhiann, now recovered, used her skill with healing to bring Dunkin and Hrothgar back to consciousness and, worried at the roaring sounds coming from the other side of the landslide the party hurried up the trail towards Durgis Rock.

The War Reaches Home

As they travelled discussion amongst the group revealed that the Orcs they had seen were not the same savage Orcs the locals were used to dealing with.  This one had been far better equipped, and had commanded the goblins under it with an unusual level of cunning.  Eirinn recognised the device on it's shield, which marked it out as from the Sword Mother Tribe.  Amongst Izrador's strongest legions most of the tribe was stationed in the west assaulting the Elves in Erethor, what could this Orc be doing so far East?

Judging by the trail the warband had been following the locals could think of only one possible destination - their home, Durgis Rock.

DUN DUN DUN!

Desperate to alert their fellows the group split up, Eondir and the long-legged Elves pressed on ahead hoping to reach The Rock as quickly as possible, while the Dwarves and Wendell followed after, Hrothgar refusing to leave Wendell and staying with the rearguard.

It was at least a two day march back to The Rock, so both groups pushed themselves hard on the forced march up the trail, Wendell collapsed from the exhaustion and had to travel on Hrothgar's shoulders, and Dunkin's old bones struggled with the exertion until the group was forced to stop to rest for the night.  Exhausted at the end of a hard day, both groups found secluded spots off the trail and bedded down for a tense night.

As dawn broke Eirinn, on watch at the Elven camp spotted a trio of goblin worg riders trotting up the trail towards them.  How had they bypassed the rearguard?  Did they still live?  There was little time to ponder these troubling questions as he woke the rest of the group and readied an ambush...
« Last Edit: February 24, 2011, 04:40:11 PM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2011, 11:18:23 AM »

Session 3: The Fall of Durgis Rock

Scouts on the Trail

Dunkin was first up the next morning amongst the reargaurd, busying himself by making ready to continue their desperate march he spotted worg tracks on the trail outside their camp.  Fresh, they hadn't passed long before.

Dunkin quickly roused the others and with no time to chastise Thran for his lackadaisical watch duty, or even for a proper breakfast, insisted they hit the trail immediately.  Not knowing whether the Shadow's forces were now before them or behind them Dunkin guided the group to a spot further up the trail where he knew the climb was slightly easier and the group switched onto the High Trail, seeking to outflank the worg riders and hoping against hope that they might reachThe Rock in time.

Further up the trail, Eondir, Rhiann, Eirinn and Eldiran were at that very moment launching their attack on the worg riders.  A volley of arrows from Eldiran and Eondir brought one down, as Eirinn leapt out from his hiding place, a slash of his sword cutting another's throat.  As the last worg rider wheeled about to withdraw a blast of wind called forth by Rhiann threw him from his mount and slammed him against the rockface.  Dazed and confused he made an easy target as Eldiran filled him with arrows.

Assuming these were the scouts, and fearing that the main force could not be far behind they pressed on towards Durgis Rock, reaching it shortly before nightfall an ominous orange glow in the sky and the smell of burning filling their nostrils.

A Maiden in Peril

The reargaurd's trip along the High Trail was just as eventful as they stumbled across a group of 4 Orcs in the middle of brutally toying with a young Dwarf maiden.  Thran and Dunkin recognised her as Margot, Kort's daughter.  Vowing not to let them lay another hand on the poor girl the group attacked.  Thran once more called on his mastery of the earth to send a shower of stones into the Orcs, downing two of them while Hrothgar and Dunkin charged into the other two.

By the end of the fight Hrothgar and Thran had both taken wounds, but more worrying was poor Wendell who was lying in a pool of blood after a lucky throwing axe from one Orc had hit him in the face.  It was only by Dunkin's ministrations that the Gnome pulled through.  Margot raced into Dunkin's arms and buried her face in his chest, sobbing.  Bruised and battered, but otherwise unmolested.  Knowing they would be too weak to make it to The Rock before nightfall, the group scouted round for a place to lick their wounds and would have to leave it another day before they discovered the fate of their home.

The Siege of Durgis Rock

Meanwhile, Eondir and the Elves had crested the ridge to a disturbing site.  In the valley below they could see the siege of Durgis Rock in full swing.  The southern half of the town was smoldering and overrun by Orcs, but the northern half still stood firm.  The river running through the town had been blocked, its channel filled with burning oil and the bridges collapsed.  Ranks of Dwarves stood ready to defend their home as the Orcs busied themselves preparing a crude looking wooden structure, presumably a siege weapon of some kind.

Rhiann was desperate to make it inside, too much depended on her meeting with Woden to fail now.  Eondir knew there were still a few tunnels beneath The Rock that could be navigated, but hadn't used them since he was a small boy and couldn't remember where any of them entered the town (if only they had a Dwarf child with them!).  With no other option they crept around the Orc encampment, dodging sentries, and headed for the western side of the town where Orc patrols seemed the lightest.  As luck would have it there they ran into a small band of Dwarf Wildlanders, patrolling the slopes around the town in case the Orcs should try and assault from another angle.

One of their number agreed to leave his post to guide the Elves into the town, but before they entered the tunnels Rhiann once more began chanting in her strange otherworldly voice.  Gale force winds started up again, this time blowing across the ruined southern half of the town, fanning the flames in the direction of the Orc camp.  As tents caught ablaze agonised roars, sounding similar to the Lake Troll they had fought the day before, could be heard coming from some of the larger tents.

Before they disappeared out of view the group caught sight of a hulking figure, Orc shaped but thesize of a Troll, issuing orders to the Orcs fighting the fires.  At his side stood a sinister human shaped figure, dressed all in black.  For one chilling moment the group felt a dark presence coming over them, as if the dark figure was looking straight at them...

(click to show/hide)

They emerged from the tunnel to find The Rock a frenzied hive of activity, Dwarves hurrying to and fro carrying barrels of pitch and strong liquor up to the barricades, ready to feed to flames when the inevitable assault came.  Kort, a dark cloud seeming to hang over him, hurried the group into the Hall of Heroes.

Woden's Quest

Woden was sat on his throne, decked out in his full mithril armour and with the gleaming Helm of the Ancestors atop his brow, a large Mithril battleaxe leaning against his throne.  In all his years living at The Rock Eondir had never seen the old man dressed so, and he made for an impressive sight.  All about The Hall the Dorthane's personal guard were also fully prepared for battle.  If The Rock was to fall it would come at the cost of many Orc lives.

Woden greeted Rhiann like an old friend, and the two held a hasty discussion.  Eondir, though fluent in the Kurgan dialect, could understand little of their conversation in Old Dwarven.  Woden passed the Elven emissary an ornate scroll case, the shape of an exquisitely carved dragon coiled around it.  Turning to him Woden inquired as to Thran's health, seemingly desperate to know that the young Loremaster to be still lived.  Rhiann assured Woden that he did indeed live, for she had farsighted his group on the High Trail.  Satisfied, and relieved, Woden brought forth a pair of gleaming mithril gauntlets, presenting them to Eondir with instructions that they be passed to Thran.  He explained that they were the symbols of The Rock's Loremaster, called Flame and Stone.  On the back of each gauntlet was a roughly circular piece, made not from mithril but from a material Eondir did not recognise.  On each piece was embossed a single rune in Old Dwarven.  After insisting on Eondir's oath that he would present the gift to Thran, and ensure the Elven emissary made it out of the mountains he then brought forth another gift, this time for Eondir himself.  A small wooden box, which he explained had been given to him by Eondir's step-father, purportedly the last possessions of his real father.  Opening the box Eondir found a gold and silver signet ring bearing a symbol of a book superimposed by a sword and a small dark green gemstone, both wrapped in a rag of tartan cloth.

Explaining that a small group of Wildlanders would be leaving that night, taking the town's children to Silver Vein and safety, Woden bid the group leave with the refugees.  Himself and the rest of the Clan's warriors would be staying and fighting - they would hold for at least one night.  For the sake of the children, they had to.  The group had just enough time to gather up as much Dwarven trail bread as they could carry for the journey, along with a pair of tents, a few extra urutuks and handaxes, and for Eondir and Eldiran to be outfitted in Dwarven-made chain shirts (although Eldiran's was a rather loose fit, designed as it was for a human frame).

Travelling through the tunnels with the refugees the group were approached by a Gnomish trader.  Introducing himself as Fairweight he explained that he had been trapped inside The Rock when the siege began, had no wish to become stuck at Silver Vein till winters end and asked if he might accompany their group and make his way out of the mountains.  

A New Friend

So, our fifth player rejoined the group this week.  Rather tricky introducing a new character at this point, so he spent most of the session controlling Dunkin & Wendell and picked up his character the following week.

Fairweight, Dragonblooded Gnome Charismatic Channeler
Another character a little light on background atm, the player is new to D&D, but is a WoW player and asked to be a buffer spellcaster, so Charismatic Channeler seemed the best fit.  Seemed to enjoy being Wendell and opted to be a Gnome himself.  Makes it 3 out of 5 party members who have the Magecraft feat - which is bound to bring Astirax onto their trail sooner or later mrgreen, works out alright though as it gives the party a bit of a "face" character, which they were lacking otherwise (except for Wendell).
Mechanically speaking, has Enlarge Person and Summon Monster I as spells known so far (yes, I know Summon Monster is technically unavailable for now, but I've bent the rules/given extra stuff to the rest of them so did the same for Fairweight.  Besides, I dislike the Greater Spellcasting part of what is otherwise a good magic system - a lot of the best Conj/Evoc spells are in Lesser Conj/Evoc anyway, and the very idea of charging people twice for Evocation when the best school - Transmutation - costs one feat is downright insulting afaic!)
« Last Edit: February 24, 2011, 04:37:58 PM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2011, 01:09:22 PM »

Session 4: Eirinn's Doom

The Quest Begins

This session started with the two groups, finally, reuniting as Rhiann's farsight guided the Elves, Eondir and Fairweight to their campsite on the High Trail.

Dunkin and Thran were dismayed to hear of their home's seemingly imminent fate, although in Thran's case it was tempered by his joy at receiving Woden's gifts of Flame and Stone, and the implicit promotion to Loremaster that possession of them implied.  Unfortunately for him, Eondir had not thought to ask Woden what, if any, magical powers the ancient mithril gauntlets might hold.  It seemed he would have to unlock their secrets himself.  There was a happy reunion for two other members of the group though - it turned out Wendell and Fairweight had traded with one another many times and knew each other well.

A New Leader

Dunkin explained that his old bones no longer had the strength for the sort of adventure the group was about to embark upon, and declared that he would instead guide young Margot to Silver Vein, to reunite with the rest of their Clan and, with luck, the girl's father.  Wishing the group well he urged them to follow the Carina River southwards to exit the mountains, and bid them look out for any ruins of the Cardaal Clan, allies of the Durgis in times gone by but with whom they had long since lost contact.

With Dunkin's wizened head gone Wendell wasted no time declaring himself the group's leader and guide, Hrothgar's menacing form at his shoulder dissuading most from disagreeing, though Rhiann and Eirinn seemed to be humouring their diminutive companion more than anything else.  And so the group headed south, away from the devastation at Durgis Rock and back towards Kurgan Falls.  It seemed the Shadow's forces had still not chanced upon the High Trail for their journey was largely uneventful, the one moment of excitement coming when they spotted an Orc wagon train on the trail far below, seemingly heavily laden and heading away from The Rock.

Reaching the Falls they could find no sign of the bodies from their previous fight there, other than a pile of bones in the corner of the tower.  Of the huge Troll they had bested there was no sign - could it have recovered from the many wounds inflicted on it?

Regardless, they deemed the ruined tower a safe spot to camp for the night.  They were wrong.

Hounds of Izrador

Leaning against the bridge, midway through his watch, Thran spotted a pair of wolves loping down the trail.  He hurried back to the tower, crying out to his fellows to awaken, barely making it to the safety of the walls before the first wolf was upon him, its sinister red eyes glaring at him with an unnatural hunger.  As the first wolf leapt onto his back he felt the pain of its jaws clamp around his shoulder only barely, far worse icy pain he felt run through his heart, as if a small piece of his soul was being ripped out.

Woken by Thran's cries Eondir was first on the scene, but he too was assaulted by the second wolf, a stabbing icy pain running through him as the creatures jaws snapped at him.  All hell broke loose as the rest of the party scrambled to save their companions, Eirinn driving his sword through the heart of one wolf, and Rhiann hurling a handful of silver powder at the other, driving it back and away from the prone Thran before Eldiran's arrows pierced its hide.

The Flight South

As the group caught their breath Rhiann ordered them all to break camp, for even though they had slain the creatures, the demons that had worn their skin would be hurrying back to report to their master even now.  There would be no night's sleep for the group today as they trudged alongside the river in pitch black.

For the first days travel past the tower they marched as quickly as they were able, Wendell and Fairweight both riding atop one of Hrothgar's broad shoulders when they failed to match the brutal pace the Elves set.  By the second day the icy breath of winter reached them and snow fell across the trail, perhaps no bad thing if it helped cover their tracks, though it did leave them shivering about Rhiann's hearthstone in the night.

Hungry Humanitarianism

By the fourth day out from Kurgan Falls the group were beginning to relax the pace a little when they spotted 3 small figures playing in the river up ahead.  At first Eirinn worried they might be goblins, but it was soon established they were in fact human children, albeit rather filthy.  Eondir and Fairweight approached the trio, who scurried away cowering behind a boulder fearfully.  Eondir's soothing words had little effect, but when Fairweight produced some of his rations the children quickly became talkative, introducing themselves as Nois, Ligos and Jural, and revealed that their parents were camped a short distance away, in a secluded valley.

Led by the children back to their camp the party found a depressing scene.  A pathetic camp of roughly 30 people, all thin and emaciated, and with little or nothing in the way of shelter.  A small group of men and boys, wielding rusted weapons and sticks, challenged the newcomers.  Satisfied that they were no threat, and eyeing the party's packs hungrily, the refugees ultimately invited them to share their fire.

Their leader, Gareth Orin, explained that they were refugees, originally descended from the Dorns of Low Rock whose ancestors had lived alongside the Dwarves of Bothen Clan since the Shadow fell, but had been driven from their homes by a recent Orc incursion.  These 30 were all that had survived of a town of almost 300.

The party were really good at this point - they gave the refugees a pile of spare weapons, along with a couple of suits of armour, one of their tents and one of the groups' two hearthstones.  Furthermore, they travelled with the refugees south the next day (in part to hide their own tracks it must be said!), foraging and hunting as they went.  They successfully killed one mountain goat, which along with foraged vegetables proved enough to feed the entire company, and caught 5 more goats alive (3 females, 2 infants).

At the campsite the party had virtually their first chance to sit and take stock of their situation after their mad dash away from the Orcs.  Eondir took the opportunity to bring out the heirlooms Woden had given him, and sought to discover if any member of the group could make sense of what they meant.  Thran thought he recognised the symbol of the ring from etchings of some human history books he had leafed through as a student - pictures of knights with a noble bearing wearing it as a crest on their chests, but his lack of knowledge of the written form of human tongues meant he had never read the book properly.  Rhiann told Eondir that magic had once flowed through his ring, though it lay dormant now, perhaps he could return the heirloom to its former power?  Finally, Gareth interrupted - he had noticed the tartan cloth Eondir had set aside so casually, it was hard to tell from such a small piece, but he thought the pattern was the same as that once worn by the warriors of House Sedrig.  Of the green gem, none could give any great insight, though Wendell did point out that it must once have been set in a larger piece, due to the chip marks where it had seemingly been prized out.  The Gnome merchant suggested that it was basically worthless as a result and that Eondir may as well throw it in the river, though the Wildlander declined the suggestion.

Puzzled at these insights, but increasingly interested in the ring after Rhiann's comments, Eondir took to wearing the ring, hopeful it would in time yield it's secrets up to him.

However, even catching enough to feed the group for one day had proved a struggle, and Rhiann was reluctant to slow their own pace to allow the refugees to keep up.  When Eondir and Fairweight started coughing on the second evening, seemingly having caught the illness from the malnourished refugees, they decided they would have to part ways.  Leaving the refugees with the remaining goats and directions to Durgis Cove, on the eastern side of the mountain range, they left the following morning with the refugees' thanks ringing in their ears.

Ambush!

As they hurried along the trail, Thran and Eondir noticed strange markings on some of the rocks, which they recognised as Goral Fen, ancient guidemarks used by the Dwarves.  These marks seemed to indicate the presence of a refuge further ahead on the trail.  As they travelled further the guidemarks continued every 1000 ft or so, spurring them ever onwards.

As they went the river narrowed until it became a raging torrent passing through a narrow gorge, a thin shelf of rock either side forcing them to travel in two groups, both in single file.  As they rounded one bend, Eldiran, in the lead, sighted a trio of Orcs up ahead, leaning against the cliff face and pacing back and forth as if on watch.  The party quickly conferred, and reasoning they could quickly defeat such a small group vowed not to use any of their magical powers unless disaster should strike [they're getting a handle on Midnight I think Grin].  Eirinn, Eldiran and Eondir snuck forward, hoping to catch the Orc picket by surprise, but were spotted and the Orcs cried out a challenge, before loosing a volley of throwing axes upon seeing the Elves.

As the party surged towards the Orcs, Hrothgar leaping the river to take point ahead of Eldiran, disaster did indeed strike.  From the cliffs above a half a dozen spindly Orcs emerged from hiding, some raining javelins down upon the party, the rest leaping off the cliff to attack.  Eldiran, Rhiann and Hrothgar all found themselves assailed from both sides, wickedly curved blades slashing at them, although one that jumped at Thran mistimed his jump so spectacularly that it struck its head against a rock outcropping, before its decidely limp body bounced on the rock shelf to splash into the raging river below.

At the head of the column, Eirinn found himself facing a huge brute of an Orc, massive tusks jutting out from its mouth, and its muscles rippling as it raised an enormous vardatch above its head.  Eirinn and Eondir understood the Orcish command the brute issued "Take the Elves, kill the rest!" as its sword dealt a vicious blow to Eirinn's left arm.

Brutal melee erupted up and down the party's thinly stretched column.  Fairweight decided that the prohibition on magic was no longer in effect, and caused a rather surprised Eirinn to grow to twice his previous size, looming over the massive Orc as his sword slashed across its heavily scarred and tattooed flesh.  Eldiran's fighting knife and Thran's urutuk dispatched two Orcs, while Rhiann once again called forth the wind, snatching two more Orcs from their perch atop the cliffs and sending them plummeting into the river below.

Then, disaster struck, the giant Orcs vardatch dealt Eirinn a mortal blow, felling the noble Elf.  Swarmed by Orcs from all sides Hrothgar also fell beneath their blows.  Eondir killed one more Orc, but with Eirinn down he now faced the hulking brute alone.  It was to be a short fight, a single backhanded swing of the Orcs mailed fist sent the Wildlander into the river as well, before the brute leaped the chasm, his giant blade pointing squarely at Rhiann, words of High Elven sounding twisted and malevolent from his tongue "You're mine bitch!"

The last remaining Orc atop the cliffs joined the fight, leaping onto Thran and felling the Dwarf, while the brute charged at Rhiann, though his swing missed.  Rhiann's hand crackled with arcane energy, sending a charge of lightning into the beast but, even though singed and blackened, the brute kept coming.  As it raised its vardatch to cut the elf maiden down all hope seemed lost until two of Eldiran's arrows sang through the air, the first sticking in the brutes chest, the second killing the Orc stood over Thran.

A Fallen Hero

Their losses had been great, but the party had pulled through.  Eldiran's ministrations brought Hrothgar and Thran back from the brink, while Wendell and Fairweight threw a rope down to Eondir to pull him from the river.  Rhiann had raced to her brothers side and now kneeled there, tears streaming down her face.  The damage was too great and despite her best efforts, Eirinn would never rise again.

With their leader stricken by grief the rest of the group hurriedly dealt with the messy work of beheading the Orc corpses and hurling them into the river, while Rhiann tenderly removed their family's heirlooms from her brothers corpse, before speaking words of power that saw the body consumed by arcane fire.  As they disposed of the corpses Thran remarked that the strange gangly Orcs were most likely of the Swift Mother Tribe, rumoured to be descended not from Dwarven stock, but from corrupted Elves.

A Prisoner

In the course of disposing of the Orc corpses they found one Orc still breathing, merely unconscious.  Seeing an opportunity to gain some valuable intelligence they tied the senseless Orc up and made ready to interrogate him.  Having been singularly ineffective in battle, Wendell felt he needed to do his bit for the group and suggested that they tie him up too.  He would pretend to be a fellow prisoner and try and win the Orcs trust.

Reviving the Orc they left him to struggle against his bonds with Wendell trussed up alongside.  It soon fell for the ruse and bought into Wendell's carefully crafted lies, revealing a great deal of information - their commanding officer was a Legate called Jael, he had been enraged after the fall of The Rock and had given orders for the Orcs to spread throughout the mountains seeking out a group of "Elven spies".  The Orc offered Wendell a deal - if they worked together to escape and capture the Elves they would both be richly rewarded.

Wendell merely smiled, stood up, and walked out of his bonds.  As the truth of the deception dawned on the Orc he screamed in rage, thrashing against his bonds until Eondir cut his throat.

Hurling the last body into the river the party pressed on, a sombre mood hanging over them all.  Eirinn had been the strongest warrior amongst them, with him fallen and the Shadow pursuing them at every turn, what hope had they in their quest?

Door to the Dark

The one bright spark came later that day when the guidemarks they had been following pointed them towards a rock fall off to the side of the trail.  Amongst the boulders they found a small hole in the cliff face, leading to a chimney up into the mountain.  At the top they found a long abandoned Dwarven refuge, thick with dust and home to an ancient Dwarf corpse.  Thran noted the patterns on his equipment as marking him out as a member of the Cardaal Clan that Dunkin had told them used to live to the south.  Judging by this refuge, it would seem they had fallen to the Shadow a long time ago.

At the back of the refuge they found another passageway, leading down beneath the mountains.  A large cavern opened up as they descended, a stream running through it from north to south, and numerous passageways branching off.  Unsure whether to attempt to navigate the subterranean maze, or risk traveling on the surface, they elected to camp in the refuge for the night to lick their wounds and would explore further the next morning.

As they gathered about their campfire Rhiann somberly unpacked Eirinn's possessions, offering his sword to Eondir who had stood alongside him at the end, and his finely wrought cloak to Eldiran.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2011, 04:36:10 PM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2011, 01:11:34 PM »

Phew!  That was an effort - note to self, update more regularly!

Some pretty major deviations from the module already, but it's going really well and the players are really getting into the setting.  Big thanks to stickyii, TwiceBorn & Beedo whose game logs/notes I've been mining for inspiration.

One elf down, Rhiann's turn next week!
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« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2011, 12:47:36 AM »

Awesome log Dave.  Seems like quite a fun game to be a part of.  I'll let stickyii know his notes are still getting good use!  He'll be quite pleased.  Modi was always one of my favorite NPCs!

Keep posting...I look forward to the next installment.

Joe
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« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2011, 02:33:28 PM »

Session 5: Fly you Fools!

An Unsafe Refuge

The party spent the next few days camped in the Dwarven refuge, Thran and Hrothgar huddled around the fire licking their wounds while Eondir and Eldiran went hunting/foraging during the days to keep their supplies up.  In the evenings, Eondir and Rhiann sat in meditative communion, Eondir was keen to learn from the Elven Channeler but the techniques and formulaes used in Elf magic proved beyond him and he would have to continue his studies another time.

On their return from hunting on the 3rd day, Eldiran and Eondir came upon a group of 12 Orcs moving along the trail, goblin trackers before them, stooped low sniffing the ground.  As the two watched from atop a high peak they saw the goblins turn away from the main pass and head towards the bluff face.  As the goblins began searching at the cliff face they knew they could not chance the discovery of their hiding place.  Eldiran's Icewood Bow sang out, arrows flying through the air and swiftly felling all the goblins as well as an Orc before they had withdrawn.  With the Orcs fanning out and heading towards their vantage point the two made good their escape, leading the Orcs on a chase through the wilderness and away from the refuge.

Rather than chancing attempting to return to the refuge in the dark they found a sheltered ravine and camped there for the night, leaving the rest of the group at the refuge wondering as to their fate.  Pushing the door to the refuge shut and placing a watch by the door through the night they resolved to go searching in the morning.  Thran got a fright in the night when he felt icy fingers on the back of his neck, but spinning on his heels he could see nothing, leaving him to endure the rest of his nervous watch with his back against the wall.

Reasoning that the strange nighttime apparition was perhaps the ghost of the long-dead Dwarf, Thran insisted that they give him a proper burial.  As he intoned prayers in Dwarven for his soul he felt a surge f power run through him.  Looking down he saw that his left glove was now wreathed in flames, and his right had seemingly transformed into solid stone.

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They headed off to find their two missing companions, stumbling across the goblin and orc corpses scattered near their hiding place.  The arrows lodged in their bodies were clearly of Elven manufacture, so after beheading and disposing of the corpses they struck out.  It was not long before they bumped into the returning Eondir and Eldiran.

Warbands on the March

Spooked at the close call from the day before, and with all their number now fully rested and recovered from their injuries they debated their next move.  Travelling into the unknown deep was unappealing, but attempting to evade Orc patrols on the surface was equally dangerous.  Torn, the decision was ultimately swayed by Wendell's reassurances that an abandoned Gnomish waystation was but one day's travel further on the southern trail, where they might with luck find some additional supplies and then continue on the trail out of the mountains.

Winter was drawing to a close, and the first hints of spring could be detected on the air as they travelled, a light drizzle replacing the snow falls that had marked much of their passage thus far.  As the sun dropped low in the sky they crested a ridge and were presented with the sight of the waystation in the valley below.  Unfortunately, the outpost was now the home of a small Orc warband.  A circle of wagons in the centre, about which could be seen at least 3 fists of Orcs, as well as goblins and their Worg mounts.  Perhaps most worrying were the 8 towering brutes with the column, Ogres by the look of them but with vicious looking spines protruding from their shoulders and fists.  Concerned at the prospect of worg riding scouts the party hurried into the undergrowth and found a secluded spot to camp in for the night, hoping to find a way to slip past the following day.

Creeping back up to the ridge the next day they found the camp a hive of activity - the Orcs seemed to be making ready to break camp.  They hurried back off the trail to their hiding place and hunkered down to await their passage.  Alas, this time the goblin scouts picked up the party's trail and we're soon spotted prowling through the undergrowth searching for them.  The party broke cover and made a run for it, heading straight into another pair of goblin scouts.  As they spotted the hulking form of one of the ogres crashing towards them they knew they were cornered.

Final Stand

Rhiann could not allow the precious cargo the group carried to fall into the Shadow's hands.  Passing the Dragon Case to Thran and her amulet to Eldiran she bid them flee while she delayed the Ogres, assuring them that she would find them as long as they kept the amulet.  As they raced away they could hear Rhiann's voice growing steadily louder, before the crash of thunder and the bellowing of the Ogres merged into a deafening cacophony.

Fleeing up the trail they withdrew back to the long-abandoned Dwarven refuge.  Pausing just long enough to gather up extra firewood they pushed the door closed behind them and plunged into the darkness.  By morning Rhiann still had not appeared.  Reasoning that she was likely already dead, and if not, that her magic would allow her to catch up with them they decided to press on, following the underground stream as it wound its way down the southward passage.  As they travelled through the dark, roped together behind Thran, to preserve their limited supplies of oil and wood they spotted another of the Goral Fen they had seen on the surface.  This one indicated that a Dwarven Holdfast lay somewhere on the trail ahead, but whether they would find it occupied by Dwarves, Orcs, the walking dead, or worse, they could not know.  Lacking any other option they followed the guidemarks.

Nest of the Faarn

About halfway through their first day's travel they heard primal screams echoing through the caverns, sounding like the cries of multiple creatures from somewhere up ahead.  The cries died down, but they crept forward cautiously regardless, eventually coming to a deep chasm across their path into which the stream fell.  On the other side they could see the ground littered with bones and filth, as well as the corpse of a huge insect-like creature.  Its innards had been ripped out, and off to the side lay another arm, though the corpse still possessed two limbs.  Eondir had heard of such creatures, Faarn, extremely dangerous subterrenean creatures, famed as much for their deafening screams as their powerful claws.

Hrothgar, impetuous as ever, jumped the chasm first, and as he landed on the other side a menacing growl could be heard in the darkness ahead.  Eondir quickly brought forth arcane light through his sword, revealing a second one of the creatures lurking in a corner.  Great wounds across its torso were visible, and it had only one clawed arm left, but it still moved towards Hrothgar menacingly.  A hail of arrows and crossbow bolts clattered against the creature's chitinous hide, but only Eldiran's shafts seemed able to penetrate its armour.  Eondir leapt the chasm to stand with Hrothgar, as Fairweight used his arcane powers to enlarge both the humans, till they stood at the same height as the beast before them.

Letting loose a deafening scream that left both humans dazed and deafened the creature charged.  A powerful blow from is remaining claw smashed into Hrothgar before its mandibles closed about him, dropping the unfortunate Dorn to the ground, before Eondir's blade cut the creature down in a huge spray of black ichor.

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Betrayal?

Kneeling down to tend to the wounded Hrothgar Eondir noticed something on the back of his neck for the first time.  A brand in the form of the Mark of Izrador.

The only thing the bleary-eyed Dorn saw as he struggled into consciousness was the still massive form of Eondir, smashing his shield into his face before all went black.

Their suspicions aroused the party rounded on Wendell, accusing the panicked Gnome of collaborating with the Shadow and having deliberately led them into ambush on the surface and being the mastermind behind their betrayal.  Grabbing the Gnome they tied both him and his Dornish bodyguard up.

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« Last Edit: February 24, 2011, 04:31:46 PM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2011, 09:27:07 AM »

Session 6: A Spy in our Midst?

Interrogation

Both Wendell and the unconscious Hrothgar were thoroughly strip searched.  Hrothgar had another marking on him - a tattoo on his left wrist.  None of the group recognised the symbol exactly, but they speculated it indicated his regiment within the Shadow's armies.  Searching Wendell revealed his body covered in scars, mostly across his back where he seemed to have been flogged repeatedly.

Deep underground, surrounded by pieces of Faarn guts and ichor, Eondir, Thran, Eldiran and Fairwait encircled Wendell menacingly.  Questions came thick and fast - how well did he know Hrothgar?  When and how had they met?  Did he know he was a servant of the Shadow?  How was he communicating with his Legate master to lead them into ambush time and time again?

Wendell denied everything, insisting that he knew nothing of Hrothgar's past, or of the Mark of Shadow he wore.  He had simply hired the Dorn as a bodyguard at a stopover at Dunstan some months previous, on the recommendation of a fellow Gnomish merchant.  He swore on everything he held dear that he was an opponent of the Shadow, claiming to have lived as a slave for 6 years (hence the scars) before escaping when the slave ship he was on ran aground on reefs.  So desperate to avoid their retribution was Wendell that he advocated executing Hrothgar!

Muttering darkly "we shall see..." the group gagged Wendell and roused Hrothgar to check his story.  He admitted he had once served in the armies of the Shadow, conscripted at a young age, but had deserted when the burdens of guilt had become too much for him to bear.  Since then he had sworn to slay Orcs wherever he could and had been working as a bodyguard for Gnome merchants, sworn to protect them as recompense for his many sins, initially working for one called "Zookbiddle" until his death at the hands of an Orc raiding party, after which time he had been hired by Wendell.

Hearing that Zookbiddle now lay dead only roused the rest of the group's suspicions further, but, Hrothgar had fought, killed and bled alongside them thus far, and they reasoned if he truly did seek to betray them he had had ample opportunity.  So, they declared that Hrothgar would be allowed to live but that steps would be taken to reduce any potential harm to themselves.  Taking Hrothgar's vardatch, and the great vardatch scavenged from a fallen Orc a few days earlier, they cast both into the chasm by the Faarn nest, issued him instead with a simple short sword, and insisted he and Wendell take point on their march through the darkness.  At no point would the hulking Dorn be left alone until they felt sure of his allegiances.

The Deep Road

Butchering the two dead Faarn yielded a substantial quantity of rubbery meat, similar to octopus, which would nourish them on their journey if cooked thoroughly enough, along with a claw from the beast that Eldiran decided would make a fine cod piece.

And so, with Hrothgar and Wendell to the fore they continued their journey into the dark, following the Goral Fen as they made their way.  For days they travelled like this, not truly knowing where they headed, but comforted by the knowledge that each step took them further from the Orcs above searching for them.  As they travelled they felt a number of tremors in the earth, distant earthquakes in the bowels of the earth.

On the 6th day of their journey they began to detect the scent of decay and rot in the air, a smell that grew more powerful as they continued onwards until, rounding a bend, they came face to face with its source.  Blocking the tunnel ahead was an enormous worm creature, the stinger on its tail pointing straight at them.  The giant creature was dead, and seemingly had been for a few days, great holes could be seen ripped from its flanks.  Gingerly they told Hrothgar to poke it with his blade, fearful of what a creature such as this would be capable of if it returned to life as one of the Fell, but it did not stir.  Thran had a theory as to the creatures nature - Dwarven tales of old tell of giant creatures, Arauwyrms (literal translation: "Great Worm who Devours the World"), that live deep beneath the earth.  Legend said that they were the creators of many of the first, and deepest, tunnels in the Kaladruns though none had seen one of the creatures in many generations.

Fascinating though Thran's historical lecture was, the group were faced with two problems - how to get past the bloated corpse, and the disturbing question of what manner of creature could do such damage?  Their best guess as to the latter was another creature of the same type, perhaps the tremors in the earth they had felt a few days earlier were the result of a titanic battle between them?  Regardless, they had to continue, and so one by one they clambered over the corpse.  A number of them were overcome by the stench of decay as they did so, and vomit flew freely, a fact that did little to aid the footing of those who followed.  Ultimately, it was a stinking and miserable group who made their way past the beast, though not before they used the mithril dagger found in the abandoned Dwarven refuge to hack 3 of the creatures rock-hard teeth from its jaw in case they should prove useful.

And so their trek continued for many more days.  It was fully two weeks before the next incident of note, by which time Hrothgar was feeling the pangs of hunger.  His rations had been exhausted a few days earlier and, still distrustful of the former soldier of Shadow, the rest of the group refused point blank to share their remaining stores with him.

Shades of the Past

Reaching a cavern, from which many passageways branched off, the party found that the trail of Goral Fen they had been following abruptly stopped, with no clue as to which direction they should head.  Stumped, the party deliberated for some time before choosing one passageway.  As they headed up their chosen route a voice called to them from behind; "I wouldn't go that way if I were you ... not unless you fancy making friends with an Orc."

Spinning on their heels they saw the ghostly shimmering form of an elderly Dwarf standing at the centre of the junction, "I am the Guardian of the road to Pardrum.  Make yourselves and your quest known, and if your hearts be true I shall guide you.  But, if your hearts be foul, you will not leave this place alive."

They explained to the strange apparition that they had fled into the deeps to escape Orc pursuers, and pursued a noble quest on behalf of their Dorthane, a quest that might lead to an alliance between Elf and Dwarf once more and therefore vital to the survival of all the free peoples of Eredane.  The ghostly Dwarf pondered their words for several long moments, before finally responding "Very well, follow me and we shall test your courage."

Leading them down a different passage the ghost led them through endless winding tunnels, deftly avoiding their questions as he travelled, stating that he remembered little of his past life, and that it had been many centuries since anyone but Orcs and the foul creatures of the depths had passed along the road to Pardrum.  As they travelled muffled noises could be heard up ahead, the familiar clash of metal on metal becoming louder as they plodded forward, mingled with gutteral shouts, and what sounded like a Dwarven warcry.

"This is where I leave you friends.  Prove yourselves brave of spirit and the way to Pardrum shall be revealed."

War in the Deeps

With that, the ghost slowly faded from view, leaving the party looking down into a wide cavern upon which had been written a tapestry of death.  Orc and Dwarf corpses littered the cavern, but the fight was not over just yet - two Dwarves stood back-to-back at the centre of a pool of filthy looking water one dual-wielding handaxes and the other with a huge shield and warhammer, a dozen orcs ranged against them.  The two sides traded shouts in Orcish and an unknown Dwarven dialect, though the party could make out enough curse words it shared with Old Dwarven to take a guess as to the meaning, before one of the Orcs raised its vardatch above its head and let out a warcry.  The Orcs rushed the two Dwarves as one, cries of "For Thedron!" meeting their snarls as once more axe and vardatch clashed.

Without hesitation our intrepid heroes leaped to the aid of teh strange Dwarves, and brutal melee erupted throughout the cavern as they charged the Orcs in the rear.  The two Dwarves gave a good account of themselves, felling a number of Orcs, but the weight of numbers told and once the Dwarf with two axes was felled by a heavy blow the sole remaining Dwarf was forced up against the cavern wall, his death seemingly certain.  Our heroes fared little better, cutting down Orcs with their charge but also feeling the press of numbers, with Hrothgar, Thran, Fairwait and Wendell all felled by blows from the Orcs.  Ultimately, they prevailed, Eldiran's arrows again coming to their rescue, and felling the last Orc assaulting the strange Dwarf just in time to save his life.

Eondir revived the unconscious Thran, and the two of them went to attend to the stranger.  His first words were in the same unknown dialect, but after Thran had greeted him in Old Dwarven he switched to the mother-tongue.  He introduced himself as Golan, of the Cardaal Clan, and his first concern was as to the health of the rest of his zuhr.  Sadly, they all lay dead, but Golan was comforted by the fact that the Orcs had shared their fate and was deeply grateful for the party's fortuitous arrival.  He offered to lead them to his home, Pardrum Holdfast, where they would be made welcome.

A Fallen Hero

Meanwhile, Eldiran used his elven innate magic to attend to the rest of the wounded.  Hrothgar and Fairwait were soon revived but Wendell's wounds were more serious.  Try as he might, the elf could not revive him.  Hrothgar knelt over his master's crumpled form, tears streaming down his face and splashing onto Wendell's wrinkled features.  The old gnome stirred for just a moment in response to this, just long enough to whisper out his final words;

"I want my money back ... *gasp, cough* .. damn your eyes Hrothgar, damn your..."

Cold, wet and miserable, deep beneath the earth, Wendell Gale died.

Hrothgar had failed again.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2011, 04:29:26 PM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2011, 10:11:31 AM »

Phew!  That was an effort - note to self, update more regularly!

Some pretty major deviations from the module already, but it's going really well and the players are really getting into the setting.  Big thanks to stickyii, TwiceBorn & Beedo whose game logs/notes I've been mining for inspiration.

One elf down, Rhiann's turn next week!

Glad that my journal could have been used as a source of inspiration... my campaign has had some major deviations of its own (and, I must confess, some of which I now regret... but live and learn).

I'll have to keep an eye on your journal -- like Pheros says, awesome log! Wish I could be part of your group!
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« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2011, 02:19:01 PM »

Session 7: Pardrum Holdfast

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Scion of Pardrum

As the party set about the gruesome task of decapitating Orc bodies and looting their corpses for anything of use Golan dealt with his dead comrades, gathering up an amulet from around the neck of each of the fallen, along with a few other items that he explained were family heirlooms.  As the party eyed the rest of the Dwarves equipment, Golan insisted that they take anything they had a use for; "Better that you take it to kill more stinkin' odrendor with than it lay here to rust!"

At Eondir's prompting the group agreed that Hrothgar's actions in wrestling an Orc into submission had earned a measure of trust, and proved that depriving him of weapons did little to diminish the potential threat from the Northman.  So, he was allowed to claim a fresh vardatch from a fallen Orc, along with a breastplate from a fallen Dwarf.  He also volunteered to take the rather rank looking rations found on the orcs - explaining that he'd eaten far worse during his time in their army.  With the rest of the group equipped with a collection of shiny new handaxes, crossbows and the like they set off for Pardrum, with Golan in the lead.

In deference to the injuries many of the group carried, they took a leisurely pace, careful to rest in out of the way chambers as they went.  As they travelled Thran began to feel a pulsing in the stones beneath his feet, as if strong magics flowed through them.  The epicentre seemed to be in the direction in which they headed, but even deeper still under the mountains.

(click to show/hide)

Pardrum Holdfast

On the 4th day they reached the gateway to Pardrum, a large carved stone dragon framing the narrow tunnel through which they would have to crawl.  Emerging on the other side they were confronted with a darkened room, and muffled footsteps all around before a disembodied voice called out a challenge in the dialect of the Cardaal.  An exchange with Golan later and the stone door slid to one side, allowing a dozen heavily armoured Dwarves to rush in and encircle the party, weapons at the ready.  The disembodied voice spoke again, this time in Old Dwarven, "By the laws of Thedron no outsideris permitted to walk the halls of Pardrum bearing arms.  Surrender your weapons and you shall be admitted."

The party blanched at this, but Golan's reassuring words swayed them; "I will give my report to Thedron now and will vouch for your courage.  On my honour, you have nothing to fear here, and my people are not thieves."  So, they surrendered their arms and allowed themselves to be escorted to an antechamber.  It's decor was spartan, but a world away from how they had lived these last few weeks, and when one of the guards returned later with platters of ort meat, mushrooms, cave peppers, and flagons of ale, they soon relaxed.

An Audience with the Council

Some time later they were summoned to the Great Hall, to face the High Council of the Cardaal Clan.  The Hall was impressive, huge columns in the shape of muscular dwarves, glistening suits of mail situated in alcoves, grandiose bas reliefs depicting countless battles with Orcs and other shadowspawned scum.  As they entered they saw Golan seated at a round stone table, now dressed in a fine woolen tunic, sitting across from six aged Dwarves, a Dwarrow dressed in bright colours standing off to one side.  Golan beckoned them over and once seated they were introduced, via the Dwarrow translator, to Thedron, Dor of the Cardaal, the one-eyed and one-armed Loremistress Dola, and dorthanes Bergthor, Hammar, Imea and Ringgeld, and revealed that Golan was in fact the son of Umea and a highly regarded member of the Clan.

Thedron apologised for the severity of their welcome, and the fact they were being questioned so late at night, but explained that certain pressing matters demanded clarification.  And with that the questionning began as Thedron, aided occasionally by Dola, grilled the party members on what brought them to Pardrum, what they wished from the Cardaal Clan, what brought a Snow Elf so far from home, where they had acquired such finely made Dwarven arms & armour.

The party's tale of Woden's quest to them, of their flight from the fall of Durgis Rock and of the fall of Eirinn and Rhiann seemed to be going down well, until the party stumbled over one question in particular.  Turning to Hrothgar, Thedron asked "Tell me Northman, why do you wield the weapons of the odrendor?"

Before anyone else could stop him Hrothgar blurted out his former  status as a servant of the Shadow.  With a single barked command from Thedron suddenly the doors of the hall were thrown open and armed guards rushed in to encircle our heroes, and Thedron's questioning took on an increasingly hostile tone.  Only the intervention of Golan vouching for Hrothgar's valour in battle seemed to sway the Dor, leading him to declare that the party would be escorted back to their room whilst the Council deliberated on all they had heard, but as they turned to leave the Dwarven guards forcibly separated Hrothgar from the group and frogmarched him away.  While the other 4 were given more ale and comfortable beds, Hrothgar spent the night in solitary confinement, nervously awaiting what the morrow would bring.

On the following day the group were once more brought before the Council, where they were reunited with Hrothgar.  Thedron informed them that they were to be given the status of honoured guests, free to walk the halls and trade with the merchants of the Holdfast.  All, that was, except for Hrothgar who would be released into the custody of Golan and would only be permitted to leave their chambers in the company of at least two stout Dwarven warriors.

As the group breathed a collective sigh of relief, Loremistress Dola spoke up, fixing Thran with her one eye and speaking to him in fluent Durgis Dialect; "We have much to discuss you and I young Loremaster.  The time of prophecy will soon be upon us, I will send for you when the time is right."

The Halls of Pardrum

With these puzzling words ringing in their ears they left the Hall, with Golan insisting that they join him for a tour of his home.  First he led them to a new set of rather more spacious chambers that they would be able to use throughout their stay, before he showed them the wonders of one of the last outposts of the Dwarves.  The Holdfast was huge, vastly bigger than Durgis Rock, arranged in 7 levels, each one shaped like a different phase of the moon in honour of the Mother, ornate columns and bas reliefs scattered throughout along with the ubiquitous glowing runes on the walls.

As they travelled throughout the Hold the group were the object of great attention from all they passed by.  Golan explained that no human had walked these halls in nearly a hundred years, and no elf for even longer.  A group of interested children was soon following the party round.  The tour culminated in Golan showing them the marketplace - not an open square as it would be overground, but a confusing warren of tunnels with workshops and stalls carved out of all sides and the hustle and bustle of Dwarves, Gnomes and Dwarrow carrying about the business of commerce.

The party were keen to trade, and though he said he was happy to provide introductions, Golan suggested they wait until after the next Pit Fight, for it would be a chance for them to gain much honour in the eyes of all the Clan if they chose to compete.  Intrigued at the notion they pressed Golan for details, but the Dwarf was cagey, insisting it would be bad luck.  All he would do was promise to ensure their own weapons and equipment would be available to them if they wished it.

The Pit

The fight was two days later.  Ushered to the Pit by Golan they were amongst the last to arrive, finding most of the Hold's population crammed onto the tiers around the edge.  The first fight was about to begin as a young Dwarf waited in the Pit.  Thedron, stood on a raised dais with a prime view, announced in a loud voice "Let the time of youth end, and the life of the warrior begin."  As he pounds his staff on the ground the doors in the pit are thrown open and a goblin shoved into the Pit.  The fight starts tensely as the youth stumbles and is forced onto the backfoot, but ends in raucous cheers as he cleaves his axe into the goblin's chest.  He was hauled out of the pit amidst loud chanting of his name and many flagons of ale thrust into his hands.

After a short time, Thedron again pounded his staff on the ground to quieten the crowd, and then began again; There are honoured guests amongst us, shall we offer them a test of their honour?"  With that, the crowd parted leaving the outsiders sitting alone and facing rank upon rank of expectant Dwarven eyes.  One by one, each of our heroes stood and declared they would meet the challenge to cheers from the Dwarves, though little Fairwait seemed a little apprehensive.

Golan presented their weapons to them as they made their way down the tiers and into the Pit ready to fight as a team, Eldiran's choice to fight with his bow causing a ripple of confusion.  Once they had all leaped in the doors parted once more, sending 5 goblins out to face them.  The party made short work of them, Hrothgar getting the loudest cheer as he cast aside his vardatch and instead chose to grab hold of the first goblin, heft him into the air, and throw him straight at the second, sending both tumbling to the floor.

The crowds cheers as the final goblin fell soon turned into chants of "ULFR! ULFR! ULFR! ULFR!"  The doors to the pit were once again opened to reveal four Dwarf guards dragging an Orc out.  The Orc struggled against them until they threw it to the ground and started kicking and beating it with sticks.  Just as our heroes were wondering about how sporting these pit fights really were the Orc began to spasm uncontrollably, the Dwarves retreated at speed as fur burst through the Orc's skin and it changed into a semi-feral wolflike creature.

It leaped through the door, claws slashing furiously at Hrothgar.  The Dorn, towering over the wolf/orc thanks to Fairwait's arcane assistance, grabbed it by the head and monkey-flipped it over his head, smashing its skull against the cobbles.  Eondir ran up, Eirinn's Sword shining brightly in his hand, and sliced into the prone creature.  His strike was true, and cleaved the creature's head clean from its body.  The crowd went wild, raucous cheers erupted as the names of the new darlings of the crowd echoed throughout the hall.  They were hauled up out of the pit and plied with ale as the evening evolved into a mass feast/drunken celebration.  Stories were told, ales consumed, and the Dwarven youth who had fought before them was spied being dragged away by a buxom young Dwarf maiden.

Most of the next day was pretty much a write-off, much Dwarven ale had been consumed, but the day after they took a trip to the market and found a blacksmith willing to trade them for their Arauwyrm teeth.  He thought they could be made into excellent picks and offered them a stone bearing his personal mark by way of credit, which they used to trade for a large pile of food for the journey ahead, as well as various sundries - torches, etc.

The Crystal Cave

The day after, a Dwarven maiden in a rune embroidered grey robe came to the party, introducing herself as Mirsil, apprentice to Dola, she bid them join her mistress for an audience.  She led them deep into the lowest levels of the hold, the magical pulsing in the rocks Thran felt growing stronger the deeper they went, and brought them out into the Hall of Runes.  Pillars and walls stretched out as far as the eye could see, runes carved onto every surface detailing the entire history of the clan.  Dola bid them sit down and proceeded to question them about their origins, their homes.  Then, after each had related their tale told them;

"There is more to you than meets the eye, Aryth is alive, and she fights the Shadow in her own way.  Each of you carries the touch of greatness in your bloodlines and she has brought that power forth."

"Thran, son of the Durgis, you bear the Wyrm's Blood, passed down to you from your ancester, Durum Wyrmbane.  In ages past it was the custom of dragonslayers to eat the hearts of their conquests to claim their power, and a tiny drop of that blood still flows in your veins."

"Eondir, the blood of a proud and noble warrior flows in your veins, I sense you will become a great leader of men."

"Fairwait, little one, you too bear the Wyrm's Blood, but unlike Thran your sire still soars above the world, though darkness rules his heart now."

"Eldiran, the blood of the first of the gods, of the Elthedar, quickens in your veins."

"And Hrothgar... so much of your past is veiled from me, but the blood of Kings runs in your veins, a power that has been used in ages past for both good and for ill."


Then, she offered each of them the gift of prophecy if they stepped into the next chamber, The Crystal Cave.  Thran had no hesitation, for he knew this was the source of the arcane power he had sensed since his arrival, and each of the rest of the group followed in turn to glimpse their fates.  Each saw a different vision, and each was spoken to by Dola in turn, a trancelike voice delivering cryptic words to each in turn in their own mother tongues.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2011, 04:26:40 PM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2011, 04:17:30 PM »

Session 8: Whither Yonder?

The party spent the next few days roaming the market tunnels of Pardrum with Golan, trading various pieces of equipment they had scavenged on their travels.  The Dwarves operated a system of marking tallies on stones to indicate lines of credit, and though none of the merchants were willing to extend credit to the strangers, they were happy to issue it in return for their goods.  So, with their tally stones in hand the group resupplied with new lanterns and as much food as they could travel.  Perhaps most significantly, worried at their run in with the demonic hounds of the Shadow and their inability to hurt the creatures, they also bartered with the local blacksmith to add a silvered edge to many of their weapons. Eondir and Hrothgar both had alchemical silver bonded to fine quality Dwarven handaxes, Eldiran acquired a large quantity of silvered arrows, and Fairwait acquired a quiver of silvered bolts for his crossbow.

As they shopped they found themselves tailed by an even larger group of children than before.  From the occasional word of the Cardaal Dialect which it shared with Old Dwarven Thran divined that they were enamoured of "The Heroes of the Pit", and the party even caught sight of one group of children wrestling, attempting to imitate Hrothgar's monkey flip from the ring.

Gifts & Goodbyes

The party were beginning to make preparations to leave, but before they could go two of their new friends insisted on giving them parting gifts.  Golan was first, leading them to a tailor's shop in the market where he had an elderly Gnome measure each of them up for brand new Ort hair travelling clothes and good quality Dwarven hiking boots to replace the dishevelled rags most of them were travelling in.  Looking much more the part of heroes they were then summoned once more to an audience with Loremistress Dola.

To Thran she gifted him with further details of his ancestor Durum Wyrmbane, the only Dwarf to ever hold the position as both High Loremaster of the Durgis Clan and High Loremaster of the Cardaal Clan.  Originally of the Durgis, he had become Cardaal as well by adoption in honour of his role as architect of the alliance between the two clans.  He forged the gauntlets that Thran now wore as symbols of that alliance - Flame representing the Durgis and Stone the Cardaal.  In a number of private audiences she slowly taught him how to tap into the spark of fire within him, teaching him how to manifest the spirit in the real world.

To Fairwait she gifted a belt buckle cunningly crafted with a concealed compartment able to contain small charms and trinkets, preloaded with a few such charms.

Turning to Hrothgar she lamented his insistence on using the weapons of the odrendor, but suggested he at least use a weapon of finer quality.  Unwrapping a cloth bundle she drew forth a finely crafted vardatch, with a vicious serrated edge.  Hrothgar had seen such weapons in the hands of Orc officers in the armies of the Shadow but had never had a chance to wield one and took it with great thanks.

To Eldiran she presented a quiver of arrows for his bow, cautioning that he must be careful with them for they contained a charge of alchemical fire and would explode upon impact.

Finally, she turned to Eondir.  She explained that she could offer him no finer weapon than the elvish sword he carried, but perhaps she could offer him an improved suit of armour.  Noting the mithril dagger he wore at his waist she offered to have one of the Clan's best smiths melt the weapon down and use it to reforge his armour as an iron-mithril alloy, a proposition to which the Wildlander agreed without hesitation.

And so, with the good wishes of the Cardaal Clan echoing in their ears our heroes departed the halls of Pardrum, guided by a female wildlander named Cayla.  Both Golan and Dola had conversed with Thran at length about the state of Dwarvenkind and the progress of the larger war on the surface, and Thran hoped that he had perhaps sown the seeds for a renewal of the alliance forged by his sire so long before.

Orcs in the Tunnels

Their journey back to the surface took a few days, but was punctuated by their stumbling across an Orc patrol.  They heard the lumbering creatures long before they saw them and, guided by Cayla, chose a defensible point in the tunnels from which to launch an ambush, forcing the burly Orcs to fight in crowded tunnels.  A pair of Orcs, each with one of their eyes gouged out, along with 4 goblins were soon spied and the heroes struck flames to torches as their trap was sprung.  Thran revealed for the first time his new found mastery of his gauntlet, calling forth magical fires that wreathed his hand before he threw it straight into an Orcs' face.  The goblins were cut down fairly easily, but as the Orcs charged in both threw glass cylinders into the middle of the party, releasing noxious clouds of gas which sent many of them into horrendous coughing fits as the greenskin charge struck.  Despite their lines being almost thrown into chaos they emerged victorious, downing the Orcs with no loss on their own side.

The next day they emerged into a cavern opening up onto the outside world, a curtain of water rushing past the entrance to create a pool they would have to swim to leave.  Worried that the water would spoil the full bags of Dwarven trail bread they hauled upon their backs Thran used some of the new powers taught him by Dola to form tendrils of smoke into a rope bridge that allowed them to cross whilst remaining dry.

Whither Yonder?

They emerged onto a rocky plateau, overlooking mountainous ridges and rolling foothills, before opening out onto the seemingly endless plains beyond.  It was dusk, but even that dim light burned their darkness accustomed eyes.

Looking out across the horizon Cayla gave them a few final words of advice before turning to return to her home:

"Before you lie the plains of Erenland, our knowledge of the area is limited but a few things I can tell you.  If you travel straight before you, due West, you will come upon the plains within a few days.  The region is sparsely populated, so with luck would be equally sparsely patrolled by the hordes of darkness, though roaming beasts and shadowspawn cannot be ruled out.  Eventually you will come to a fast flowing river, the Annyn, and though spring draws nigh and winter recedes, she will still be a raging torrent and may provide a difficult crossing.

To the north there runs a trail which sticks to the high peaks and ridges for many miles, before sloping slowly down to green valleys.  Kurgun Dwarves once lived there, but the villages were abandoned for safer locales higher in the mountains long ago.  Beyond that you will find the human village of Good Hope, where you will find a crossing of the Annyn River.  The village stands on the edge of the Barren Wood, a place where you may well find shelter, for it is said ancient powers reside there and that even the armies of Shadow fear to tread beneath its eaves.

To the south-west the mountain range continues, winding its way higher and higher until it comes to the Pass of Eagles.  When last our scouts ranged in that direction humans still held the pass against the forces of Shadow.  But, odrendor tribes had established camps in the foothills and the two sides skirmished regularly.  How the two sides have fared since I cannot say.  Beyond that stand the halls of our southern kin, Drumlen and Bodrun.  Whether they still stand I cannot say, though we had long assumed our northern cousins in the Durgis had fallen, so perhaps they too still hold."


The party spent the best part of that evening debating Cayla's words and what direction they would take.  The full extent of the distance they would have to travel was becoming clear to them, and the thought of travelling so long through occupied territory played upon their hearts.  They rejected the northern route, for it meant heading back in the direction of their pursuers, and the thought of a threat even the Shadow feared chilled their hearts.  In halting Trader's Tongue, Eldiran revealed that his group had originally travelled across the Sea of Pelluria on the ships of humans he heard refer to themselves as "The Pirates of Norfall", who had dropped Rhiann, Eirinn and himself on the eastern shores where they met Wendell and Hrothgar.  Unfortunately, the Snow Elf had no knowledge of how or where they might make contact with these pirates again, nor what price they would demand for return passage.  Instead, they turned to Fairwait who explained that to the West lay his home, the waters of the great Ardune where he thought they might gain some succour and aid amongst his kin.  He knew that to the south flowed the waters of the Eren past Wogren Moor, where the last free tribes of the dunni were said to roam.

With this insight the party formed a plan - they would follow the southern trail, seeking out the Pass of Eagles and the hope of finding some form of organised resistance who might aid them in their quest.  From there they would strike west, heading for the Ardune via Wogren Moor.

A Cold Wind

Cayla bid them farewell the following morning, leaving them to manage the difficult task of descending from the plateau.  They were heavily loaded with provisions and none dared brave the climb so weighed down so they needed to carefully lower their packs down to each shelf as they descended.  This they managed, and were soon hiking along the southern trail enjoying the spring sunshine, though not the intense winds their altitude brought.  On the second day of travel the winds grew worse, and the temperature dropped to icy levels.  Eondir, with a flash of insight, recalled hearing tales of just such a phenomenon preceding an attack from a Bitterwind.  Spirits of cold north wind that had lost their grip on sanity in their millennia trapped apart from the gods and now resorted to feeding on the living to sustain themselves.

Wary of attack, Thran and Fairwait were clothed in magical armour and Eondir surrounded by a faintly shimmering field when the creature Eondir had predicted launched its assault.  It was difficult to make out, appearing as little more than a swirl of debris travelling on the winds, but when the creature struck there was no doubt, an icy chill stabbing deep into their bones.  With a panicked cry of "Not again!" Hrothgar grabbed up Fairwait and set off down the trail at a jog, leaving the other three hunkered behind rock outcroppings to fend off the crazed spirit alone.  Thran again called forth the flames from his gauntlet, but this time used the powers Dola had taught him to bind the spirit that accompanied him to the flames, the fire flowing forth from his palm to stand between him and danger.

As the group huddled behind the rocks the spirit drew up an even greater quantity of debris into its whirlwind, sending it forth in a blast of spinning rock and icy chill which Eondir took full to the face, though his gleaming mithril alloy shirt offered some measure of protection.  The fight continued in this fashion for some time, the party struggling to come to grips with their elemental foe.  Ultimately blasts of fire from Thran and the touch of his flame companion along with sweeps of Eondir's elven blade did enough to drive it off, an angry hiss echoing against the cliff face as the winds died down and the temperature returned to normal, though not before Eldiran lay on the floor unconscious, as cold as the grave.

Reviving their elven companion the 3 of them hurried along the trail, preparing to give Hrothgar a piece of their collective minds...

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« Last Edit: February 24, 2011, 04:41:36 PM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
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« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2011, 04:46:00 PM »

Glad that my journal could have been used as a source of inspiration... my campaign has had some major deviations of its own (and, I must confess, some of which I now regret... but live and learn).

I'll have to keep an eye on your journal -- like Pheros says, awesome log! Wish I could be part of your group!

Thanks,

Which bits of yours do you regret?

Personally, I regret keeping Rhiann around as long as I did - she's too high level, it's impossible not to use her as a DMPC who saves the day without the players asking why she isn't helping them - ended up writing extra Orcs into encounters to keep her occupied with.  Also kinda regret railroading them into the tunnels to Pardrum a bit, but ultimately it was to give them some nice things so I can make my peace with it.

I was hoping they wouldn't pick going north as I'm not a fan of the ogres in the Barren Wood tbh, so would've wanted to create something new.  Very glad they opted for south, introducing them to Dalian Jorgensen's army and the Bodrun Dwarves will fit in nicely with their efforts to rekindle the Durgis-Cardaal Alliance and leaves the possibility of a new alliance as a nice mid/high level plothook for them to come back to after they've delivered the Dragon Case.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2011, 04:49:00 PM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
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« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2011, 12:39:17 AM »

Thanks,

Which bits of yours do you regret?

Personally, I regret keeping Rhiann around as long as I did - she's too high level, it's impossible not to use her as a DMPC who saves the day without the players asking why she isn't helping them - ended up writing extra Orcs into encounters to keep her occupied with.  Also kinda regret railroading them into the tunnels to Pardrum a bit, but ultimately it was to give them some nice things so I can make my peace with it.

I was hoping they wouldn't pick going north as I'm not a fan of the ogres in the Barren Wood tbh, so would've wanted to create something new.  Very glad they opted for south, introducing them to Dalian Jorgensen's army and the Bodrun Dwarves will fit in nicely with their efforts to rekindle the Durgis-Cardaal Alliance and leaves the possibility of a new alliance as a nice mid/high level plothook for them to come back to after they've delivered the Dragon Case.

I pretty much regret most of the "side treks" I introduced into the campaign, including the three sessions dedicated to herding giant beetles to aid besieged dwarven miners in their battle against what essentially were half-fiend mongrelfolk (pretty cheesy) prior to reaching Pardrum Holdfast, and subsequently having one of the PCs discover some of his kin among slaves they rescued after PH. The whole "lead the kinsfolk to safety" has become a huge tangent and quite a burden (further complicated by the addition of the Barren Forest ogres to the picture), and I planted hooks that encouraged them to prolong the sidetrek... and which could very well result in a TPK in the next session, if the PCs aren't cautious or the dice aren't on their side. We've been playing for two years, and still haven't crossed the plains! And I can only blame myself for failing to anticipate the consequences of what I should have known were bad ideas... but with limited time to plan sessions, I haven't really had the time to take a long view of things... oh well, live and learn...

 
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« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2011, 08:59:17 AM »

Two years?  That is a bit slow, we've been going nearly 3 months, playing most weeks, and we're getting close to a similar point to where yours is at.  The herd of beetles did seem a little random.  I liked the Purple Worm corpse though so stole that bit.  I considered having them stumble onto the ruins of an ancient Elthedar/Darguul city in the tunnels, or just an abandoned/massacred Dwarf Holdfast, but decided we'd taken long enough evading patrols round Durgis Rock so needed to speed things along a little bit.

The parts with the kinsfolk seemed pretty good to me from reading the log - captures the bleak & desperate feel of Midnight very well.  Can be a headache logistically though - we spent most of one session foraging for food to feed the Dorn refugees in the mountains, at which point the group generally agreed it would be better for the game for the party and them to go their separate ways.
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« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2011, 10:52:32 AM »

Two years?  That is a bit slow, we've been going nearly 3 months, playing most weeks, and we're getting close to a similar point to where yours is at.  The herd of beetles did seem a little random.  I liked the Purple Worm corpse though so stole that bit.  I considered having them stumble onto the ruins of an ancient Elthedar/Darguul city in the tunnels, or just an abandoned/massacred Dwarf Holdfast, but decided we'd taken long enough evading patrols round Durgis Rock so needed to speed things along a little bit.

The parts with the kinsfolk seemed pretty good to me from reading the log - captures the bleak & desperate feel of Midnight very well.  Can be a headache logistically though - we spent most of one session foraging for food to feed the Dorn refugees in the mountains, at which point the group generally agreed it would be better for the game for the party and them to go their separate ways.

Yes, the game has been slow for a variety of reasons. At best, we can only get together once every other week due to everyone's work and/or family commitments (and in some cases, even less frequently than that). Summers are usually a write-off because everyone goes on vacation at different times. And the game was on halt for about four months when my dad ended up in the intensive care unit on the brink of death (I had neither the time nor the desire to prep games at that point). And sometimes, one of the players alternates in the DM's chair and runs  a Pathfinder campaign, but that runs on the nights that I would otherwise run Midnight (and I'm grateful for the break and opportunity to be in the player's seat).

So yeah, I long for those high school days where we had time to play marathon D&D sessions (sometimes 18 hours straight!) every weekend... oh, that was only twenty some years ago!

But yeah, having the tag-along family does become a bit of a burden on both the party and DM after a while, and the herd of beetles was just me throwing in a modified scenario from Dungeon mag that just seemed different, was set in dwarven caverns, and was at the right level range... but, in hindsight, it really was an awkward fit for the storyline.

Anyway, I'll stop breaking the flow of your awesome journal!
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« Reply #15 on: March 03, 2011, 12:07:28 PM »

Yeah, I would get rid of that tag-along family quickly.  My group has a tendency to get random tag-along's that are sort of minions and sort of allies.  My DM has spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get rid of them... 
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« Reply #16 on: April 26, 2011, 12:04:51 PM »

Right, had another session of this a few weeks ago, my memory may be a bit hazy on the details for this one...

Session 9: March through the Spinewalls

After fending off the Bitterwind they continued to trek through the mountains, keeping to the highest trails and passes as much as possible.  Spring had come, and although the ever-present black clouds above limited the heat, it made for a pleasant backdrop to their journey.

As they travelled it became apparent that their decision to stick to the peaks had been a wise one, for they caught sight of a host marching across the plains far below.  Eldiran, with his keen Elven eyesight, could make out the banners they carried - a red sword against a black background.  Orcs of the Bloody Sword Tribe, perhaps a thousand, marching to the south-west.  They hunkered down in a discrete spot and watched the column fade into the distance before resuming their own journey.

As they crossed more of the peaks they came across what looked like a mass grave.  Skeletons, seemingly Dwarven by their stature, littered the plateau atop one peak, the flesh picked from the bones by carrion and scavengers.  Upon closer examination they seemed to have been arranged in a deliberate fashion, each one with a well-aimed axe stroke to sever the head from the body and surrounded by grave goods.  Though the practice had long fallen into disuse amongst the Durgis, Thran speculated that the scene was reminiscent of the old Kurgan custom of sky burial, though seemingly adapted to avoid the deceased rising as Fell.  A search of the site revealed that most of the items were of limited use to the party, but they did take one particularly well crafted waraxe from one grave.  Perhaps living Dwarves also made these peaks their home...

Their next encounter came a couple of days later, when they spotted an old windmill nestled in a valley.  The windmill was ruined, only two of the spokes still attached to a crumbling building, but the pony tethered outside suggested occupation so the party approached.  As they came closer a challenge was called out from a window above and a pair of humans, strung bows held restlessly in hand emerged.  After a tense moment as the two groups weighed each other's strength, Eondir proposed a trade for the pony, and a trio of humans came out to parlay.  Their leader was a Dornish looking man, bald, with a long scar running across one cheek, named Calarn.  Thinking quickly, Eondir pulled the recently found waraxe from a pack and mumbled an incantation out of sight of the strangers.  The axe, now shining as bright as any torch thanks to the touch of magic, was then presented to Calarn as a great magical weapon, which would never lose its edge and which shone like the sun if Orcs were within a radius of 10 miles.  His eyes gleaming with desire Calarn hastily agreed to the trade, and the party hurried away with their new pony before their subterfuge was revealed.

The next day, as the they crested a ridge, they spotted a small group travelling in the opposite direction at speed.  Orcs, 6 of them.  They showed no sign of having spotted the party so our heroes ducked behind a rock outcropping and waited for them to pass by.  As they did so they caught snatches of their conversation, and it became clear they were a scout party for a larger force returning to make their report after clashing with Dwarves to the south.  Keen to not only aid these mystery Dwarves, but also to try and forestall the arrival of a larger Orc force in the area, they hastily launched an ambush.  Fairwait's magical powers called the trees and bushes to their aid, winding tendrils grabbing hold of the legs of the Orcs as they struggled.

Two of the Orcs escaped the grasping vines and made a run for it, heading over the ridge and away from the party.  Eondir, enlarged by Fairwait's magic, pursued, while Eldiran's arrows began to pick away at the trapped Orcs.  Ultimately, Eondir caught the two Orcs, slicing them down with Eirinn's Blade, while Hrothgar waded into the tangle of undergrowth so as to club one of the orcs into unconsciousness for questionning.

Following the attentions of Thran's Gauntlet of Stone on the unfortunate Orcs delicates, he soon talked, explaining that they were scouts for a Bloody Sword warband heading south-west, to the mouth of a great pass.  The Orc didn't seem to know many details of the warbands orders, and his claims as to the warband's size suggested he could not in fact count past three.  Deeming their prisoner of no more use, he was executed and the decapitated corpse hidden off of the trail along with the rest.

From there the party took to following the Orcs' trail backwards, reasoning that the Dwarves they had encountered would be found at the other end.  But before they reached them they faced another trial that night.  During the darkest portion of the night, during Thran's watch, scrabbling noise could be heard off in the darkness.  Rousing his fellows he sent forth gleaming globes of light to illuminate the scene, which revealed an Orc crawling through the undergrowth towards them, sniffing at the ground as it came.  With Thran's spell having made their position clear the Dwarf came at him with a snarl, knocking the Dwarf to the ground.  As it tried to bite off Thran's ear, the stench of death filled Thran's nostrils.  A disorganised melee ensued as two more Orcs also came rushing in from other directions.  The party made fairly short work of the three Ungral Orcs, and after scouting round the area to check for more returned to an uneasy sleep.  The Fell had also worn the now familiar symbol of the Bloody Sword Tribe.

Toward the end of the next day the trail came to an end on a ridge, the markings on the ground making it plain a battle had been fought here.  Spying a walled Kurgan village in the valley below the party headed on.  When their shouted challenges received no reply they scaled the walls, only to be confronted by a crowd of Dwarves and humans, bows and crossbows trained on the party as one middle-aged Dwarf called out "Who dares trespass in the lands of Fedrol Clan?"

After some hasty explanation and introductions, the Dwarves and humans lowered their weapons and their leader introduced himself as Thorim, of Fedrol Clan, Clan Dwarves who lived in the southern reaches of the Spinewalls.  The village had been abandoned as the Fedrol Clan's Kurgan allies withdrew to more defensible positions in the face of an expected Orc assault from the north and this scouting party were now using it as a base.  They had clashed with the Orc scouts a few days previously, and although they had gotten the better of them had been unable to match the speed of the taller Dwarves.  Relieved to hear their foes now lay dead Thorim invited the party to share their fire and catch for the day.

Supplied with freshly cooked slabs of mutton the party continued their conversation with Thorim, who explained that their chosen south-westerly direction was liable to take them into an Orc camp in the foothills.  Instead, he suggested they head straight south, where they would find more abandoned Kurgan villages before ultimately reaching their Clan's capital, The Peak of Morndin, a great fortress standing astride the Pass of Eagles.  Thorim explained that Fedrol Clan's Kurgan allies had relocated into the pass and there a great host was being assembled made up of the seasoned veterans of Fedrol Clan, a host of human refugees, and the mainstay of the alliance, the Kurgan Dwarves of Gorand Clan, who live on the southern slopes of the Kaladruns, so far beyond the reach of the Dark God.

When they parted the next morning, Thorim could spare them little beyond the meal and advice, for their orders to reconnoiter to the north remained, but he urged them to head south, promising that their news from further north would be gratefully received.

And so their journey continued...
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DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #17 on: May 30, 2011, 09:10:18 AM »

Right, got a couple of sessions behind on this so best catch up.  I may be a little hazy one some of the detail mind...

Session 10: The Pass of Eagles

In the morning they parted company with Thorim and his band, heading towards the south as they suggested.  They passed a couple more abandoned Kurgan villages on their way until, ultimately, they came across a narrow pass blocked by a Dwarven fort.  The Dwarves stationed there were of Fedrol Clan, the same as Thorim, and with his name to drop persuading the garrison of their peaceful intent proved fairly easy and it was not long before they were let through the gates and given a guide to escort them along the trails beyond.

The trail was treacherous and thin, winding between the mountains and through more than one concealed tunnel in the rock.  As they climbed higher and higher into the peaks the heroes struggled to draw breath in the impressive altitude, forcing them to take regular breaks and making for slow going.  Towards the end of their journey the peaks looming ahead of them parted briefly to reveal a sight of a great stone eagle carved into a mountain face above, its profile standing forth proudly in the sunlight.  Then the mountains closed in once more, but it was not long after that they found themselves standing before the First Gate.  Two curtain walls blocked their path, a zig-zagging path between them ensuring any invader would pay a heavy price before they reached the Great Gate.  Carved into the mountain itself, the huge stone eagle looming far above it opened onto an enormous tunnel carved into the mountain itself.

Atop the walls fluttered a variety of banners, Thran recognised the two most prominent - Fedrol Clan's black eagle on a background of sky blue, and the hammer and anvil of Gorand Clan.  There was also one banner that none of the party recognised, a golden bear, rampant, on a green background.

Their footsteps echoed throughout the giant tunnel as they crossed the threshold into the seat of Fedrol Clan - Morndin, though most refer to it simply as "The Peak".

Morndin

Their journey through Morndin reminded our heroes of their recent sojourn at Pardrum, a twisting collection of narrow tunnels, murderholes, ambush spots, dead ends and barricades.  There the similarity ended for here in Morndin the party was given a friendlier greeting, led to a reception room where they were urged to rest and recuperate from their climb, The Lords would see them later.

Once rested they were invited to an audience with the Council of War and led through yet more winding tunnels, progressively leading ever upwards until they must surely have reached the highest level.  Entering a large chamber, lit by daylight thanks to the shafts cut into the walls and ceiling, containing a bubbling fountain surrounded by stone tables and benches.

Meeting them there was a pair of Dwarves, a pair of humans - one Dorn and one Sarcosan - and a Gnome.  The Dorn stood to greet them first, a rugged looking middle-aged man (played by Michael Hogan, aka Saul Tigh from the new Battlestar), introducing himself as Dalian Jorgenson, Lord Commander of the King's 7th Legion, before going round the room and introducing the others:

- The Sarcosan; "My adviser and scribe, Ur-Mesethi", a small elderly man (played by Morgan Freeman) man dressed in a dark blue robe, obviously once covered in silvered geometic shapes though now faded from age, and wearing a myriad of small charms about his wrists and neck.

- The two Dwarves, one Kurgun and one Clan, "Dorthanes Gradil and Karold, representatives of the Great Fedrol and Gorand Clans."

- The Gnome, "And finally, our Master of Whispers."  The Gnome merely smirked in greeting, adding "But you can call me Fozzy."

Our heroes were shocked by their hosts title, "Lord Commander of the King's 7th Legion", for they only knew of one king in the land, Jahzir, The Night King.  They backed off warily before Dalian explained, "No, we are sworn to the true King, if one still lives.  After The Third Great War the remnants of the 7th Legion retreated here, protecting columns of refugees, until they were ultimately taken in by our Dwarven hosts.  Since then we have taken in more refugees and tried to rebuild as much of an army as we can.  When the time comes, we shall make our stand here alongside our Dwarven allies."

Their hosts then turned the conversation towards the party's homelands - word had reached them of an offensive to the north originating from Kardoling, but they had received no word from anyone as far north as the party and were eager for news.  The party related their own tale, the arrival of the Elven emissaries, their flight from the siege of Durgis Rock and harrying by patrols of Orcs before their journey through The Deep Road, via Pardrum and ultimately back onto the surface and into the lands of Fedrol Clan.  Although 'Fozzy' interrupted their account of their escape from Durgis Rock by revealing that his own sources had brought news of a Witch Taker laying waste to the region in search of "Elven spies", the part of the tale that elicited the most interest was the story of the party's sojourn in Pardrum Holdfast.  It turned out that their new hosts had sought the long hidden Cardaal Clan in hopes of bringing their cousins into the alliance they were forging ready for the Shadow's next assault.  Karold, of Gorand Clan, beseeched our heroes to lead a group back the way they had come to deliver messages of friendship to the Cardaal.

The discussion continued for some time, during which our heroes learned that Morndin was the strong point for an alliance between Fedrol and Gorand Clans (numbering some 20,000 and 50,000 dwarven soldiers each), Dalian Jorgenson's ragtag band of the descendants of the 7th Legion, refugees and a loose collection of Horseclans and Sarcosan Freeriders, numbering approx 7,000 armed soldiers, and a network of sympathetic gnome spies.  Their intelligence revealed that a great host of orcs was being gathered at Erenhead ready to be sent to support the front lines ranged against them beneath the Pass of Eagles.  With luck, the assault would not come until the following summer, but it was only a matter of time.

Though reluctant to tarry too long in their own quest, Eldiran and Hrothgar offered to lead a group of Dwarves back north.  Meanwhile, Thran, Fairwait and Eondir would remain at Morndin, for the discussion had revealed that Ur-Mesethi was a Channeler of some talent who, along with his apprentices, was willing to give the trio instruction in the use of their gifts.  It also transpired that the Sarcosan scribe recognised the symbol on Eondir's ring, revealing that it was the crest of an order of knights called The King's Heralds before the fall of the Kingdom of Erenland, and order that was simultaneously the King's own bodyguard, as well as his instruments - roaming Knights Errant with the power to administer justice in the King's name.  The scribe was puzzled as to how Eondir had come across it, since the last of the Heralds were all killed attempting to defend Hedreg the Last when Jahzir's forces swept the armies of the kingdom aside 100 years previously...

(click to show/hide)

Jorgenson also bid the party carry his own letter to the Elven Queen alongside the one from Woden they already carried.  He bid them impress upon the Queen that the army standing in The Pass was probably the largest army still standing against the Shadow outside of Erethor and to plead with the Elves for any aid they might be able to send.  He also offered them as much provisions and equipment as could be spared and guides from amongst his Sarcosan Freeriders to help them slip through the front lines and out onto the plains of Erenland.  Taking him up one his offer the group stocked up on as much food as their pony could bear, caltrops, oil, lamps, new suits of armour for Hrothgar and Eldiran, and a special request - silvered weapons for use against the Shadow's demonic servants, ultimately receiving bundles of silvered arrows and crossbow bolts, along with a pair of silvered handaxes (for Thran and Hrothgar) and a silvered short sword (for Eondir).

By the time Hrothgar and Eldiran returned, unsuccessful, from their journey north the group was ready to leave The Peak and brave the descent.

Descending the Spinewall

Led by a pair of Sarcosan guides they left The Peak via another hidden entrance leading via a variety of narrow trails, hidden passages and difficult climbs down to the foot of the mountains.  As they travelled down they came across a alrge cat, striped with orange and black, lounging on a rock overlooking the trail.

Their attempts to sidle past without disturbing the creature failed, and were met with angry and threatening snarls.  A hail of arrows and crossbow bolts proved insufficient to scare the creature off, and when a second attempt to pass by was met with the creature leaping onto Hrothgar's back the Dorn had no option but to slay the creature with two great swings of his vardatch (though not before it had left some rather large scars for him to remember her by).

Once the creature lay slain it became apparent why it had refused to leave, for hidden behind the rock outcropping was its lair, now home to a single tiger cub.  The poor creature mewed pathetically until Fairwait picked it up, declaring that he had need of a familiar.

The rest of the descent was uneventful until they reached the forests on the lower slopes.  Whilst creeping through the woods they spotted an orc patrol, numbering about a dozen, heading towards them.  Reasoning that dead orcs are generally preferable they laid an ambush, staking out a small outcropping by the trail.

When the orcs arrived the trap was launched, Fairwait calling forth the spirits of nature to animate the trees and vines of the forest.  Within no time the majority of the orc patrol found themselves bound hand and foot by the vegetation.  A couple escaped their clutches to rush at their ambushers but were cut down in short order.  Unable to drag themselves out of the mass of vines and branches the party found picking off the remainder from a distance a fairly routine task and soon all lay dead.  Whether they would remain so for long remained at issue, for they chose to leave the dead unmolested, better to rise as Fell as an additional nuisance the forces of the Shadow.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2011, 10:46:54 AM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #18 on: May 30, 2011, 10:25:43 AM »

Session 11: The House of the Dead

Pressing on through the forest the group came upon the southern branch of the River Annyn, behind the main orc camp at the entrance to the Pass of Eagles where the river forked.  Their guides explained that there was a pre-planned rendezvous with a Gnome barge due at this point soon.  The Sarcosans themselves would be getting a lift across the river and joining up with a band of Freeriders raiding supply wagons behind the front lines.  The party was free to join the Freeriders, but would be expected to fight and keep pace with the horsemen, or they could try and negotiate a longer lift from the Gnome barge.

Unskilled in horse-riding, the group decided that the gnome barge represented the best choice, so settled down amidst the undergrowth to await the barge.

It arrived that afternoon, sailing downriver towards them, flying green and yellow pendants, which their guides explained meant the coast was clear.  Roughly 80 ft long the barge was flat bottomed to navigate the rivers and featured two masts, both flying triangular lateen sails.  Rising from their hiding place they signaled to the barge, which slowly tacked towards the river bank to meet them.  On boarding the party were introduced to Captain Horace Swift, a middle-aged gnome who owned the Honoured Beauty on which they now stood.  As the barge pushed off and tacked towards the opposite shore he listened to the party's request for a lift...

"Any of ya ever sailed afore?  Know how to rig a sail, or at least how to pull on an oar?  No?  Well, I ain't running no charity here, and it'll be my head on the block if ya found, how you gonna make that worth my while eh?"

"I tell ya what, I've got a pickup later downstream, could find use for a few big folk with it.  You take this little trip for me and we'll call that payment for your passage a'right?"

The party agreed, by which time the barge had reached the opposite bank.  Their Sarcosan guides whistled, in response to which a group of Sarcosans leading horses emerged from the trees to meet them.  A frenzy of activity ensued as Gnomes and Sarcosans swiftly swapped a variety of sacks and crates.  Then, their two guides wished them luck and joined with their fellows riding north.

The entire exchange had taken less than five minutes, and The Honoured Beauty was soon sailing peacefully downriver as if nothing had happened.  Captain Horace joined the group on the deck just as a fort came into view up ahead.  Built from stone originally it was obvious one wall had collapsed and been rebuilt in wood.  Peaking out from atop two of the towers could be seen catapults ready to rain down their deadly cargo on any ships travelling the waters.

Fort Flavion

"Fort Flavion, our next checkpoint.  We passed through not a couple o' days past on our way upstream so they won't do too thorough a check.  Still, best get you lot down below.  Follow me lads, bring any weapons or other contraband with you, if'n the Hobbos find any of that on board we'll be in for a full search for sure ... oh, and y'all ain't carrying no magic are ya?  I ain't carryin' none o' that aboard my ship, ain't worth the risk."

Assuring Horace that they carried nothing that would give them away they were led below decks, whereupon Horace clambered atop a pile of crates and slid open a secret panel in the ceiling, revealing a hidden crawlspace in the area between decks.  He urged the group to climb in and make themselves comfortable before closing the hatch with an admonition that they should stay put no matter what they heard.

Nervous moments ticked by as they felt the barge slow to a stop before heavy iron-shod footprints clattered  on the deck above and rasping snarling voices could just be made out.  Despite hearing a few shouts, and a worrying moment when the barking of a dog could be heard below, the party stayed put and eventually heard the footsteps recede and felt the barge cast off and begin to sail once more.

Horace left them in "the hole" for several minutes before returning to let them out.  Stiff with cramping muscles they stretched as the old gnome grumbled "Bastards made off with half our meat, and most of our booze ... bloody thieves, I swear I've paid that same 'tithe' ten times over this season."

The Hanging Tree

After returning to the deck the PCs managed to get a glimpse of the countryside through which the river wound.  The debris of a fallen civilization was plain to see - crumbled walls, fields left overgrown, and abandoned villages.

A short while later they came across a more ghastly sight.  From a large tree on the northern bank they could see the forms of two humanoids dangling by ropes about their necks.

"A hanging tree," explained Horace, "the Orcs string up anyone they accuse of crimes against the Shadow as a warning to others.  This marks the edge of His dominion."

As the boat came closer one of the hanging forms suddenly twitched into life, though its neck hung at an odd angle as if broken.  It thrashed and howled as the barge passed.  From this close the party could also see a couple more ropes hanging from the tree, their ends frayed and torn, almost as if something had chewed through them...

"One hell of a deterrent I'll grant them that." added Horace.

As the tree faded into the distance behind the boat the howls faded too.

The Strange Death of Zookbiddle

Subdued by the gruesome sight the party drifted apart to brood in silence, at which point Horace took advantage to grab Thran and Fairwait apart from the rest of the group.

Horace: "Tell me, the northman, Hrothgar, how well do you know him?"

Thran: "Not too well if truth be told, though each of us owe him our lives, why do you ask?"

Horace: "Well, one o' ma crew reckons he knows him, from back at Swift Water, ain't that right lad?"

Crew member: "Aye Cap'n, that it is, I recognised him soon as I laid eyes on him.  Used to go round with a gnome by the name of Zookbiddle when I knew him, his bodyguard I believe.  Least, he was until Zook turned up dead.  Last anyone saw of him Old Zook was in Tuk's, drunk as you like, boasting 'bout how he'd found some new weapon that'd show the orcs what for.  Well, he liked a drink did Old Zook, so no one paid him much mind at the time, not till we found the body next morning.  Never did find the head...   I dunno what happened to him, Zook had a few enemies if the tales he used to tell were even half true, but all I know is that one, the northman, well, he left town mighty quick after it happened.  Running from something I'd wager, though whether were guilt or fear I canna' say."

...

The Town of Vargon

Later, on deck:

"Right, next stop is Vargon.  Used ta be a human town back in me father's day, overrun with Hobs and Orcs nowadays though.  We'll be docking for the night, would look funny not to, and I'll wager they'll be more thorough in checking us.  Best you lads find somewhere else to sleep.  We'll drop you off on the south bank a bit before town, you should be ale to slip through the forests on that side and past the town without being spotted.  Follow the old trail and head west, a few miles down the way you'll come across the old manor, all ruins now, but make for that and we'll keep a watch out for you in the morning."

As the afternoon drew to a close the party gathered up their weapons and a few supplies ready to make camp for the night, leaving their pony and the rest of their stores with the gnomes to guard and left the ship on the southern shore.  Slipping through the forests proved easy and they soon came upon the ruined manor Horace had told them about.  But despite its overgrown and tumbled down appearance they glimpsed movement through one of the windows, a small girl seemed to have taken over their chosen campsite.

The group called out but she ignored them so, nervous fingers on the hilts of their weapons, they approached the house.  Catching another glimpse of the girl vanishing round a corner they pursued.  Horthgar called out, at which point the girl stopped and slowly turned around to face him.  As she did so they noticed for the first time that her dress was splattered with blood all down the front.  Her mouth opened, the sides of her cheeks ripping open in bloody wounds to reveal a mouth far larger than any human being should ever possess ... and screamed.

The House of the Dead

The girl's terrible scream echoed hideously through the ruined corridors, the party dropping to their knees cowering in fear as the sound chilled them to their very bones.

Sounds could be heard throughout the manor house, shuffling footsteps and moans drew closer before the shambling forms of a dozen heavily decayed humans emerged from all sides bearing down upon the party with hunger gleaming in their eyes.

The terrible screaming continued to echo throughout the ruined manor, freezing the party to the spot in terror as the living dead slowly came closer.  Just as they reached the group Hrothgar and Eldiran managed to shake off their fear and draw their weapons.  Eldiran's arrows punctured the walking corpses as Hrothgar's vardatch hacked off limbs and smashed bones, but wounds that would've killed a mortal man seemed to have litle effect and the creatures kept coming, long taloned fingers grasping for the heroes.

In desperation, Hrothgar grabbed hold of one of them, heaving it into the air and hurling it straight at the still screaming little girl.  The impact knocked her from her feet and brought a temporary respite from the terrifying wail, but not before Thran's flesh had been gouged open by the claws of the dead and little Fairwait had been dragged to the ground, a swarm of corpses now falling upon the gnome amidst disturbing chewing and slurping noises.

In the lull Eondir and Thran managed to recover their senses.  Eondir drew his elven sword and charged the girl as her mouth slowly opened once more.  Eirinn's Doom swung in an irresistable arc that sliced clean through her torso.

As blood splashed around her feet the little girl simply giggled, and in the distance more howls could be heard echoing about the forest.

"Tee hee, Daddy's coming home, he's going to be angry with you!"

Eldiran, growing desperate, drew forth the arrows gifted him by Dola at Pardrum and loosed one shaft straight into the face of an onrushing corpse.  The alchemical fire concealed within exploded in the abomination's face, knocking it to the ground, and as the flames licked about the decayed flesh Thran invoked his arcane powers to give life to the flames, his spirit familiar entering in a flash of light.  Mindlessly, the undead swarmed the elemental, succeeding only in setting their own rotting flesh on fire.

Eondir's next swing of Eirinn's Doom proved more successful, slicing the little girl clean in two in a spray of blood and gore (Evil Dead-style!) and the tide of battle turned.  Hrothgar waded into the crowd of corpses swarming Fairwait as more of Eldiran's fire arrows poured into the melee until all the Fell were finally down, dead, they hoped for good.

Rushing to the gnomes side Eondir felt for a pulse but found none, though Fairwait coughed and gasped in anguish.  Calling forth his arcane powers Eondir tried to stitch the gnomes grevious wounds back together, but nothing happened and Fairwait continued to thrash and cough.

"No pulse, and my magic isn't working..."

Realisation slowly dawned on our heroes.  Fairwait was dead, yet something animated his movements.  Eldiran pulled back on his bowstring once more and the gnome soon stopped twitching.

Another gnome had died on Hrothgar's watch.

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The group hastily began the gruesome task of decapitating the corpses lest they rise once more, before looting them, and the manor, for anything of value.  Howls still echoed throughout the forest, drawing closer, so with the aid of Thran's magic they clambered to the top of a ruined tower, the staircase long since collapsed, and hunkered down behind the ruined battlements.

Within a couple of hours sounds were heard in the forest around the manor, and in the dim moonlight they could just make out roughly a dozen creatures entering the manor.  This group seemed better equipped than the Fell they had faced earlier, carrying spears and pitchforks, while one especially large specimen carried a battleaxe strapped to his belt.  The party elected to remain hidden in the hope of avoiding further conflict and so listened nervously as the Fell scratched around the manor house, howling in dismay as they came upon the bodies littering their home.

Their despair did not last long though, and soon a hideous crunching and slurping noise could be heard.  The party settled in for a long night, though none of them got any sleep.

As dawn broke the Fell withdrew down the ruined staircase into the catacombs beneath the ruins to hide from the light of day.  Shortly after the party spied the welcome sight of The Honoured Beauty gliding towards them.  Leaving it as long as they dared, they hurried down from their tower and to the riverbank, waving the barge down and quickly climbing aboard.

(click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: May 30, 2011, 10:41:48 AM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #19 on: June 04, 2011, 10:00:23 AM »

Session 12: Legates, Astirax & Eels, oh my!

Hearing the party's disturbing tale of the waking dead, the gnome crew hurriedly tied red pendants onto the dock by the manor house, wary eyes watching the trees all the while, before pushing off and steering away from the bank as soon as they could.  Once on their way the party retired below decks, all in need of sleep after their harrowing night.

The barge continued it's drift down the River Annyn, boggy wetlands off to the sides as the spring melts caused the rivers & streams to burst their banks.  The ruins of civilization could be seen as they passed, fields overgrown with weeds, tumbled down boundary walls, and abandoned villages, but in time signs of life began to be seen, and even a couple of smaller villages, whose occupants waved to the passing gnomes.  The pattern was unmistakable - only those villages with stockades and walls were still occupied, any settlement without such protection had long been abandoned.

The next day, as they lounged about the top deck, Horace approached the group and reminded them of their promise to perform "a little job" for him.  Today was to be the day, for soon they would reach the point where the river is met by a smaller tributary.  Horace tasked the party with following that tributary to an old abandoned village, called Lorholt, where he and his crew had buried some contraband the previous summer that they would now like to recover.  Buried beneath the fireplace of the old tavern they would find a chest.  Horace's nephew, and the Boatswain of the Honoured Beauty, Percival Swift, would accompany them and lead the way.

Wary after their encounter the night before, the group resolved to travel well-equipped, loading all their gear onto the pony before heading off.  The wetlands soon gave way to gently rolling hills and grassy plains, and before long they reached a small stockaded settlement.  Percy explained this was not their destination, but a place called Brightstar - Lorholt lay further up the trail.  Eondir & Percy headed into the village in hopes of gleaning some useful information, and were met by a large man, heavily bearded, who greeted the travellers warily before warning them that a Blood Seeker had passed through not two days previously, heading north.  The Legate had claimed two of the village's children, claiming they were tainted by the curse of witchcraft.  To what fate the children were being taken the villager could not say, and preferred not to contemplate.

Lorholt

Continuing on their way it was not long before they reached Lorholt, but as they drew near they noticed a trail of smoke rising from the largest building in the village, the tavern.  Creeping closer, Eldiran & Eondir spotted a pair of hobgoblins standing either side of the tavern entrance on watch.  But, at the same time the hobgoblins spotted them and raised a shout in alarm.  Arrows sprang forth from the pair, felling the first Hobgoblin, as their allies rushed to join them, but more hobgoblins poured forth from the tavern.  Then, from round the back of the building came a fearsome sight, a man dressed all in black, wide-rimmed hat shielding his face, mounted atop a heavily muscled destrier and wielding a vicious looking curved blade and wreathed in a cloak of swirling shadows.  Thran and Eondir called upon their arcane power, but found the winds of magic weak and were forced to call upon more of their power than usual in order to finish their incantations.

More arrows and crossbow bolts sprang forth, felling more hobgoblins, but the Legate galloped towards them, his destrier's eyes gleaming a baleful red.  He called out words in a tongue none of them knew, pointing at Eondir as he did, and the human slowly felt his muscles stiffen and refuse to respond.  The wildlander was paralyzed, unable to do anything as the Legate bore down upon him, slashing at him with his blade to leave a stinging wound that continued to bleed profusely, whilst his daemonic steed kicked him in the face, knocking him to the ground in a pool of his own blood.

(click to show/hide)

Hrothgar charged into the mass of approaching hobgoblins, while Eldiran clambered into the branches of a tree and unleashed a hail of arrows to cover the Dorn's charge.  Thran and Percy switched direction, hoping to aid Eondir.  The Legate switched his attentions to the newcomers, speaking more words of darkness to freeze Thran's muscles as well before hurling a cavalry spear straight at poor Percy.  The last of the hobgoblins fell to Hrothgar's vardatch, but in his heavy breastplate he could not catch the warhorse, so it was left to Eldiran, so often the group's saviour.  Drawing forth a pair of silvered arrows he launched them at the steed.  Though the horse survived the volley, it reared and thrashed in pain, and the baleful red glow in it's eyes slowly faded to leave a panicked, but mortal, animal.  Still it rushed forward though, rearing up in it's panic and smashing the elf with a powerful kick, knocking him to the floor unconscious.

By now Hrothgar had managed to join the melee and Thran had broken free of the Legate's dark enchantment.  A blast of ice from the Dwarf and a swing of the Dorn's vardatch wounded the dark priest, but the killing blow came from the diminutive Percy, who managed to slip inside the Legate's guard long enough to drive a dagger into his ribs.  The Legate dropped to the floor, dead, but the panicked warhorse continued to kick and rear, ultimately forcing Hrothgar to hack it's head off after efforts to calm the beast had failed.

Percy set to work trying to stem aid their two fallen comrades, while Hrothgar and Thran went to investigate the tavern, from where the panicked barking of a dog and a crying sound could be heard.  Calling forth the power of his gauntlet, Thran smashed the barricaded door into matchwood and the two peered inside.  The dog bounded past them, running into the woods in a panic, but what caught their eye was the six children, bruised, filthy, malnourished, but alive, sniffling pathetically in a huddle.  Hrothgar managed to calm the eldest down, a boy named Tolen, but it ook the soothing words of Percy to calm the rest.  It emerged that the children had been taken by the Blood Seeker from various settlements as he passed through - two from Brightstar, three from a place called Anghelm, and one from Sanzirba.  Hrothgar speculated that the most likely destination for them was a sacrificial altar, to power the Shadow's dark mirrors.

Keen to be away from the scene as quickly as possible the group fed the children while they hurriedly dug beneath the fireplace, ultimately pulling forth a rusty looking chest.  Pausing just long enough to smash the Blood Seeker's evil looking sword they hurried south, reaching Brightstar by nightfall.  By then the village gates were barred shut and no signs of life could be heard so they struck camp nearby to wait for morning.  Hrothgar watch was interrupted though when he spotted a shambling form heading down the trail.  It stopped to sniff the air and then turned towards their camp, soon revealing itself to be a Fell Hobgoblin.  Hrothgar drew his trusty vardatch but found aid from an unlikely source, the youngest of the children they had saved woke at the sounds, reached out to grab the Fell's ankle, and left a searing hand-shaped burn mark on its flesh before Hrothgar hacked it apart.

(click to show/hide)

When morning broke the gates to Brightstar opened, and two of the childrem, a pair of twins, hurried in to a delighted reunion with their mother.  Though the rest of the group were keen to dump the children with the villagers and press on, Hrothgar insisted on seeing them to safety and led the rest into the village.  Relieved to see the children, but worried at the possibility of revenge, the villagers offered him breakfast but were then keen for him to move on.  As he went to leave Tolen hurried after him, clutching onto his leg and insisting that he didn't want to stay, he wanted to be a hero just like Hrothgar.  Unable to detach the child, Hrothgar relented and allowed him to come, much to the rest of the group's disapproval.

Returning to the barge triumphantly the Honoured Beauty was on back on its way as the gnomes stowed the mysterious chest in the hold.  Eldiran and Eondir, badly wounded in the fight, spent the day laying on the deck recovering, and it was there that Eldiran's keen elven eyes spotted a speck far up n the sky in mid-afternoon.  A bird, circling above their barge as if watching them.  Troubled, they quickly grabbed up their bows as the shape circled lower and lower.  As it swooped just above the boat they loosed a volley, one of Eldiran's striking true.  The hawk banked in it's flight, but just as it looked about to fall, it flapped its wings once more and carried on, the arrow sticking out of it's back as it flew.

It dropped behind the barge and the pair hurried across to look for it.  There, floating in the river, looking dead to the world, they saw the hawk.  Perhaps it had just been paranoia after all...

The Guardian of the River

Their relief did not last long, as shortly after the boat suddenly rocked violently, as if it had struck something, throwing our heroes to the deck.  The gnomes at the fore could see nothing in the water and the worried party hastily grabbed onto ropes to steady themselves against another shock.  It came soon enough, and this time they spotted a dark shape beneath the waves swimming past after the impact.  Horace bawled out orders to strike full sail and secure the cargo and the barge lurched forward trying to outrun whatever it was.

Meanwhile, Thran called forth his arcane power, wrapping himself in armour forged from the raw power of magic.  It proved something of a mistake, as no sooner than he had done so than the creature broke the surface.  An enormous river eel, mouth wide and filled with razor shape teeth loomed over the dwarf, it's eyes gleaming an all too familiar red.  It's jaws closed around the dwarf, ripping flesh from bone, before it lifted him up from the deck and hurled him into the water.

As Thran struggled to swim against the current, Eldiran claimbed up one of the masts to get a better view, while the rest of the group readied their own weapons, gnomes scurrying underfoot as they desperately tried to generate more speed.  Again the barge lurched violently beneath their feet as the dark shape flashed past again, a volley of arrows and throwing axes splashing into the river ineffectively.  This time the blow was accompanied by a cracking noise, and the boat listed to one side as it began to take on water.  Unable to outrun the creature, Horace jammed the rudder to one side, heading for the shallows before she sank and delivered them all to the beast.

Their vessel crippled, the daemonic eel again broke the surface, it's jaws clamping shut around Hrothgar's arm, though it failed in it's efforts to throw the burly Dorn.  This time they were ready for it, Hrothgar's silver handaxe, Eondir's silver short sword, a blast of magic from Thran (who had now made the shore) and a volley of silvered arrows all ripped into the beast, driving it back beneath the waves.

Again the barge lurched, though this time because it had reached the shallows and not stuck fast.  The gnomes hurried over the side and scrambled onto the shore, with Eondir and Hrothgar following.  Only Eldiran remained on the vessel, perched atop the foremast, and it was he that the beast targetted when it burst forth from the river again.  As it's jaws stretched wide the elf loosed another arrow straight down it's gaping mouth.  The beast screamed in pain but kept coming, smashing against the mast to leave a crack halfway along it's length before its' jaws snapped around the elf, ripped him from his perch and hurled him into the centre of the river.

A volley of gnomish crossbow bolts peppered the beast, though it hardly seemed to notice, and it withdrew beneath the waters once more.  Hrothgar and Eondir leaped into the water to aid Eldiran, as they watched the elf duck beneath the surface, but under the weight of their armour they both struggled.  Ultimately it was the intrepid Percy who saved the elf, climbing back onboard the Honoured Beauty and gathering up an empty barrel attached to a rope designed for just such an event and tossing the barrel towards the flailing elf.

They eventually succeeded in pulling the bedraggled snow elf to shore, but they saw no sign of the eel.  It had looked healthy enough when last they saw it, perhaps they had slain the daemon within?  Perhaps they had driven it off?  Perhaps it merely bided it's time?  Perhaps it went to report to it's master...?
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DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #20 on: July 25, 2011, 03:36:45 PM »

Session 13: The Wreck of the Honored Beauty

Once all his crew were on the shore and accounted for, a furious Horace rounded on the party demanding to know what their business was, what they were running from, why a giant red-eyed river eel had taken it upon itself to breach his vessel and why he shouldn't just dump the party right there and then?

A sheepish party responded by telling of their quest, albeit with a few details omitted and altered, and of how they had slain a legate the previous day.  Horace was appalled, incensed at the risk they had subjected him, his crew, and his vessel too, but eventually their soothing words and offers of help in repairing the vessel calmed the captain and his rants abated.

Then, a still wet and miserable group clustered around the beached vessel, all wary to approach lest the daemonic bast still lurked beneath the waves waiting to attack.  Eventually, with silvered arrows notched to every bow and crossbow they could muster, they crept towards the riverbank and the Honored Beauty.  No attack from the astirax came as they retook their vessel and cautiously moved to inspect the damage.  The cracks in the portside and the torn sails and rigging could all be repaired, but the breach in the starboard side was far larger and would require much more extensive work.  What made it worse, due to the way the ship listed when beached on the bank, the breach was several feet below the waterline, and moving the riverboat was a task beyond the combined strengths of the party and the gnomish crew.

Hrothgar and Percy headed back to Brightstar, where a combination of the villagers' gratitude for their rescued children, their desire to see such suspicious outsiders leave the area as soon as possible, Hrothgar's natural charisma, and Percy's quick tongue persuaded the inhabitants to come and aid in the repairs, bringing a team of mules with them, the strength of which proved sufficient to lift the vessel out of the water and allow repairs to begin.  Hrothgar and Eirinn lent their sword arms to the task of felling fresh timber whilst a swarm of gnomes bustled about the vessel.  As night began to fall the breaches had been sealed sufficiently to allow the ship to be refloated, though further repairs would doubtless be needed at their next port.  With the Honored Beauty bobbing in the water the villagers hurried back home, keen to return to the security of their stockade before darkness fell completely.

While the repairs were ongoing, Thran and Eldiran set to work on some anti-astirax precautions.  The party had told the gnome of astirax, and their vulnerability to silver, at which point Horace fished out the chest they had collected at Lorholt, prising open the lid to reveal a cargo of silver ingots ("I always did wonder why you resistance types prize this stuff so much... think I should be asking for a better price.").  He offered up a portion of his cargo to their use and the dwarf set to using the Beauty's onboard furnace to smelt the silver, as the elf's quick fingers weaved rope to be coated in the molten metal.  The resulting length of rope was much less flexible than normal, but the would serve as a barrier against any further daemonic against.  Laying the rope around their campsite they set a strong watch and settled down for the night.  They also led their pony to walk across the barrier several times, just to be sure the creature had not been possessed by the astirax.

They saw no further sign of astirax that night, nor for the next 3 days of travel along the course of the Annyn River.  But on the 3rd day they did spy another vessel heading towards them, pulled by banks of oars as it fought the river current.  Horace identified the ship as one of the Shadow's patrol boats and after the eel attack was unwilling to take unnecessary risks.  He hurried the party off the boat, telling them to swim for shore and sneak through the undergrowth, he and his crew would bluff through any inspection and slow once the patrol boat was out of sight to allow them to catch them.  Grabbing only what they could carry whilst swimming the party slipped into the waters near where the trees overhung the river and into the woods.

Most of them headed well out of sight of the river, but Eldiran, lightest of foot amongst them crept to the treeline to watch what happened to the gnomes.  He saw orcs and hobgoblins swarm the Beauty and brutally round up the crew on deck, Horace dragged out from the group and beaten by one particularly large orc.  Horace must have resisted the interrogation, because soon other gnomes were being dragged out from the group and executed before Horace's eyes.  When Horace's nephew Percy was pulled forth the old sailor broke, watching through his spyglass Eldiran saw him point towards the bank where the party had alighted.  The elf decided he needed to see no more, launched a volley of flaming arrows into the patrol boats sails and paused only long enough to see them catch before hurrying back to the rest of the party.

Dreading pursuit they set as fast a pace as they could as they marched west, pushing themselves to march until nightfall before finally calling a halt.  Their efforts were in vain though, and as they were setting up a camp for the night they spotted a score of orcs and hobgoblins on their trail on the horizon.  Weary of running they chose to stand and fight whilst they still had their strength.  Hunkering down about a copse of trees about which they lay a bank of caltrops they stood their ground, arrows and Thran's magic assailing the swarm of greenskins as they approached.  On a pre-arranged signal Eldiran launched another of the flaming arrows into the centre of the group, at which point Thran called upon his control over flame to ignite a flash of bright light.  The combination of the blinding flash and the caltrops broke the charge and the party salled forth to cut down their stumbling foes.

They had prevailed against significantly greater numbers, and only the grisly task of beheading the corpses put a slight dampener on their celebrations.
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DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #21 on: July 25, 2011, 04:15:39 PM »

Session 14: Crossing the Grasslands

The party continued west, keeping clear of well worn trails and settlements, trusting to the dense grasses of the plains to conceal their passage.  After a few days they did stop briefly at one village, having noted a large burial pyre that had recently been used outside the stockade they sought news of what dangers they might face.  Eirinn, Hrothgar and the boy Tolen posed as a travelling group of tinkers and learned of a group of mercenaries employed by the local lord called The Smiling Killers who had come to the village, led by a huge man wearing a bearskin who called himself Mhorg, they had demanded the villagers tell them the location of a band of revels called the Onasari, and had responded by slaughtered a number of the village's younger menfolk and enslaving the younger women.  Traumatised and in mourning, the villagers had no inclination to harbour a group of unauthorised travellers and the party quickly moved on.

[Insert travel montage here]

As the next few days passed they saw no sign of either the Smiling Killers or the Onasari, but during the nights they did hear a sinister cackling noise echoing on the wind, and glimpsed winged creatures in the moonlight far to the north.  They did encounter a pair of orc scouts and their guard dogs who had seemingly picked up the party's trail, but a mightly blow from Hrothgar's vardatch removed the first orc's head in one blow and then the party's combined strength quickly slew the other.  Later, they came across a wide paved round across their path, just dodging an unfortunate encounter with a convoy travelling along it, a fist of heavily mailed orcs marching in lockstep at the front of wagons clearly laden with supplies, the rear brought up by a train of hobgoblin driven slaves.  Once the convoy had passed they crossed the road and plunged back into the thick grasslands, though not before noting the worn griffon symbol adorning many of the paving stones, identified by Thran as the symbol of the old King of Erenland and marking this road as the Kingsway, connecting Erenhead to Alvedera.

With that information making them a little more sure as to their location they pressed west, but soon stumbled upon a new threat, a small band of horsemen, bearing black shields emblazoned with a white skull, a red smile daubed across it's mouth.  The horsemen challenged the party in the name of "Blessed Izrador", but had no chance to talk their way out of this one as the commander of the Smiling Killers ordered a charge upon spotting the elf and dwarf in their midst.  The heavily muscled northmen lowered their spears as they charged, inflicting painful wounds as they cantered past, one of which put Eldiran on the ground in a pool of blood, but ultimately the party prevailed, and Eondir's magic was just enough to pull the elf back from the brink of death.  On the plus side, the party had now acquired horses, and also donned the cloaks, helmets and shields of their opponents so as to appear to be Smiling Killers themselves from a distance.

The ruse paid off, for later that day they encountered another band of horsemen attired in the same way patrolling, avoiding close contact with them through the clever use of the horn symbols of Izrador's legions that Hrothgar had learned in the army.  What's more, when the party came across a river valley cutting across their path, they brazenly rode through the settlement that nestled there and over the only bridge, waved through with barely a glance by the rather bored looking orc picket.

[Insert another travel montage]

Their next encounter came in the grasslands, when they spotted a group of diminutive gnome-like figures creeping through the grass.  Fearing goblins at first, they quickly identified the small dark skinned creatures with tightly wound dreadlocks as halflings, though only Hrothgar had ever seen a halfling before, and then only as slaves.  The dunni were elusive when the party attempted to catch up to them, slipping into the grasses and out of sight whenever the party drew close.  The cat and mouse game continued for some time, a constant shifting of undergrowth surrounding the party and disorienting them, until suddenly they found themselves faced with halflings on all sides, each one with a bow notched and taut and pointing straight at them.

A female halfling then stepped forth from the group, introducing herself as Singing Sparrow and questioning the party as to why they were here, and why they were following them, whilst being elusive when questioned in return.  The party convinced the halflings to lower their bows at least, but when they tried to push further for some aid or succour on their trip met resistance, with Singing Sparrow declaring they had no need of, or trust in "largefolk".  Hrothgar attempted to use his charms on her, but was met only with an amused chuckle and an admonishment about using your powers on those stronger than you.  Still, the Dorns failed effort  to bewitch her bizarrely seemed to pique her curiousity.  She told him he had been "touched" and warned him not to display these powers before the servants of darkness, for he would be hunted to the ends of the earth if they learned of them.  Offering nothing more by way of explanation she then offered the party the hospitality of their camp.  Hrothgar attempted to clasp her by the hand in a traditional Dornish handshake to show his gratitude, but his hand slipped straight through Singing Sparrow, eliciting another chuckle from the back of the crowd.  The same halfling stepped forward again, standing alongside her double,

"We are not entirely defenceless you see."
« Last Edit: November 14, 2011, 12:05:14 PM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #22 on: September 04, 2011, 12:00:19 PM »

Session 15 & 16: Freedom or Death!

Despite some reluctance on the part of the cautious halflings, the group persuaded the dunni to allow them to accompany them on their journey westward.  The halflings were evasive as to their destination, saying only that they "headed west" but would travel with the big folk for so long as their paths entwined.  The female mage introduced herself as Singing Sparrow, and then introduced one of the halfling scouts, seemingly their leader, as Stalking Cat.

Their journey was to be an eventful one, because a few hours later Eldiran spotted a plume of smoke and a flock of birds circling above it in the distance.  Eldiran and a few of the halflings crept forward to investigate and came upon a grizly scene - the mangled remains of a halfling camp, vultures picking at the corpses of halflings and wogren scattered about.  A few orc bodies, mangled by the wogren jaws, revealed the culprits, and the long trail heading north gave some clue as to the likely location of the rest of the halfling tribe who had camped here.

They also found a more unusual sight, a single orc bound to a stake driven into the ground and left in the baking sun.  Upon poking the slumped form they found he was still alive, just, though he babbled incoherently.  A little of Eldiran's healing arts brought the orc to his senses and allowed for a proper interrogation - his name was Sardric, a member of the Legion of Blood who had been part of the orc patrol.  He claimed to be a follower of "The White Mother", a sect of orcs who had rejected Izrador's rule who had taken pity on the halflings during the raid and attempted to protect them, first by preaching against Izrador to his fellows and then, when that had failed, with vardatch in hand.  The party was suspicious, but the vardatch wounds on two of the orc corpses seemed to bear out the orc's story so they offered him the chance to assist them in tracking the orcs and trying to free the captured halflings - if he did that he would be allowed to go free.  Sardric agreed, relishing the opportunity to repay his brothers for the wounds they had caused him.

Though they left him unarmoured, Hrothgar gave their new ally his spare vardatch and then the group headed after the orcs trail.  No attempt had been made to conceal the trail so it was easy to follow.  Periodically they found evidence of spots where the orcs had made camp, along with the gruesome sight of the remains of cooked halfling bodies - evidently the orcs were eating some of their prisoners along the way.  The orcs had set a fairly leisurely pace and the party soon caught up to them, sighting their camp atop a small hill in the distance.  A huddled group of halflings chained together could be seen just to the side of the campfire.

Wary of a head-to-head confrontation with a group of Orc Legionnaries they decided to lay a trap, the party serving as bait to lure the orcs into the crossfire of concealed halfling archers and Singing Sparrow's spells.  The plan worked and the orcs took the bait, leaving their prisoners unattended.  Singing Sparrow conjured forth clouds of mist and smoke to impede the orcs advance as arrows assailed them from both sides, while Stalking Cat led another group sneaking past and freed the slaves.

As the slaves could be seen running into the vast trackless grasslands the party withdrew, spurring their horses to a gallop to evade their pursuers as the remaining halflings disappeared into the long grasses.  All except Thran, who had become detached from the rest of the group in the fight and found himself cut off by a group of orcs.  Two of them caught him and pulled him from his steed, a heavy blow from a vardatch grievously wounding the dwarf.  As consciousness slipped away from him and the orc raised its blade the killing blow mists swept across the scene, the last thing he saw was the insubstantial form of a large wolf snarling menacingly at the orc...

Shapes in the Mist

Coming to later, Thran found himself surrounded by dozens of small halflings, who had evidently pulled him to safety.  Querying what the creature was he had seen Singing Sparrow explained that what he had seen was just a figment she had conjured.

"On nights when there is no moon and the mists rise, vengeful spirits of the land. the mistwraiths, rise too, and the shadow has learned well to fear their wrath.  Fortunately for you, and for us, the orcs do not realize how rarely the spirits come, and a few well-placed tales and illusions gives us some small measure of protection.  At least, for now, should they ever come in force we could never hope to stand against the full force of the Legions or their dark masters."

She hushed his further questions, insisting that they must make as much haste as they could - they had not found Thran's companions yet and were worried that the orcs might still try and pursue them to recapture the freed halflings.  They were right to be worried, for a few hours later Stalking Cat hurried forward from the rearguard to report a band of orcs sighted on their trail.  With the slaves still weak they saw little hope of outrunning their pursuers so instead, calling upon the last ounces of her strength, Singing Sparrow fashioned one last illusion, cloaking the huddled slaves in a blanket of magic concealing their presence and giving the appearance of a treacherous swamp instead.

The illusion was  only just large enough to cloak the group, and worried that it would not survive closer scrutiny Thran offered to act as a decoy, leading the pursuing orcs away from the halflings so as to give them chance to lose the orcs and relying on the speed of his steed to carry him clear.

At first the plan worked, on sighting the lone dwarf the orcs roared in triumph and loped after him in pursuit.  Unfortunately, Thran's horse was tired from it's long journey, and the dwarf was still badly wounded from his previous encounter.  While most of the pursuing orcs were left behind, one orc proved an extremely good sprinter and succeeded in closing the gap with the tiring horse.  One well aimed throwing axe knocked Thran from his saddle, before the orc hacked poor Thran's head clean from his shoulders.

The halflings had been saved, but Thran's journey was at an end.

(click to show/hide)

...

Meanwhile, Eondir, Eldiran and Hrothgar, after tending their own wounds, headed north, looping round the site of the battle hoping to avoid the remaining Legionaries and find Thran and the halflings' trail.  With nearly 40 freed slaves added to their number finding the trail did not prove difficult, though the heavy ironshod footprints of orcs following in their wake was less encouraging.  Finding the trail splitting in two the group chose to follow the more well-disguised trail, ignoring the direction in which the orcs had seemingly travelled, and the next day they came across Stalking Cat's scouts.  Their joy soon turned to sorrow though as the tale of Thran's sacrifice was relayed to them, though at least they could feel relief at the fact that the Dragon Case was still in Eldiran's possession.

Ode to a Fallen Hero

Singing Sparrow then revealed that her scouts had gone in search of the dwarf after he failed to return, and though they had been unable to recover his body had found the spot where he had fallen, blood staining the earth.  They had collected as much of the bloodstained earth as they could, and though she did not know the customs of Thran's own people, she would be honoured to give him a halfling funeral.

And so that evening a sombre mood cloaked their camp, as a small earthenware bowl and dagger was passed around, each person cutting their hand and adding a few drops of their own blood to the bowl before Singing Sparrow mixed it in with a handful of dry earth from the ground.  Then, intoning prayers naming Thran as halfling-friend and beseeching the spirits of the mist to take him into their embrace, scattered the earth to the winds.

Each of the party members sat solemnly, thinking of how much blood had now been lost for the message they carried, of the destruction of Durgis Rock and the dead friends that littered their trail - Eirinn, Rhiann, Wendell, and now Thran too.  Each one vowed that Woden's message would reach the Queen of the Elves, no matter the cost.

Harpy Attack

Their troubles were not yet complete, for as night drew in shrieks and the flap of wings were heard on the wind.  A pack of harpies, feral creatures spawned in Izrador's pits to the north, chanced upon them.  Though Singing Sparrow cloaked the group in mists and nauseating vapours, it did little to dissuade the creatures.  The humans and elf fought bravely, driving back many of the beasts, but their numbers were too few, and brave as their halfling allies were they struggled, their slight frames offering little defence as the beasts' claws lifted them up into the air only to drop them from a great height into the mass of terrified slaves at the centre of the camp.

Though the beasts were ultimately driven off, losses were heavy and several halflings had been carried off into the night, some still crying out in terror.  Where once there had been nearly three score halflings all told, now the accumulated horrors of orcs and harpies had left barely half that number remaining.

It was an uneasy night's sleep, the gloating shrieks of harpies still echoing across the landscape as they enjoyed their feast.

Pursuit!

With another two days of travel the group began to notice a change in the terrain, small streams and fens began to interrupt the grassy plains as they approached the relative safety of Wogren Moor and the halflings' strange mistwraith guardians.  Alas, they would face one more challenge before they could finally relax, for the halfling rearguard spotted a group of mounted figures following up on their trail.

Putting Wendell's spyglass to his eye Eldiran's keen elven senses allowed him to relay further details - a dozen riders atop coal black horned steeds, orcs judging by their builds, and bearing a symbol of a crucified man atop a flame upon their shields.  At their head roade another, smaller, figure, human probably, clad in black armour and blood red cape, a skull emblazoned across his breastplate.

Hrothgar gulped and turned pale, he knew the symbols the elf described all too well from his time in Izrador's armies - The Witchburners, an elite orc unit specially trained in hunting and killing mages and riding Hadrukar, twisted horses spawned in the pits.  Though the Witchburners' reputation was formidable enough on it's own, it was the blood red cape and skull that truly filled the Dorn with fear...

... an Inquisitor.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2011, 12:03:11 PM by DaveTheMagicWeasel » Logged
DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #23 on: September 10, 2011, 03:51:28 PM »

Session 17: The Price of Treason

Knowing that the halflings could not hope to outpace the orcs' heavy steeds the group quickly decided to split up, the halflings disappeared into the long grasses and split up, hoping to lose any pursuit, leaving the party, too tall to hide as the little folk did, and with horses as well, to attempt to outrun Izrador's servants.  Only Singing Sparrow remained with the party, stating that she carried magical items on her person and it might be best if she went with them to create a false trail before dumping the items.

Her arcane powers had already saved the party's lives and Eondir had no hesitation in offering her a lift.

(click to show/hide)

As the halflings melted into the countryside half of the pursuing band split from the main group and went after the halflings, leaving half a dozen riders chasing the mounted group.  The fearsome Inquisitor at their head, the hooves of their coal black steeds flaming as they struck the ground, they gained rapidly.  Eldiran was clearly a natural horseman as his steed sprinted into the lead, leaving Eondir and Hrothgar in his wake.  He spun in his saddle to fire potshots at the pursuers but the motion of his steed threw off his aim.  It galled the elf to leave his comrades, but the precious Dragon Case he carried was too vital a prize to risk.  He dug his heels into his steed and raced on.

As Eondir controlled the horse Singing Sparrow called upon the spirits of the mist, tendrils of smoke drifting up from the ground as their steeds raced past.  From this mist the blurred form of a terrible hound coalesced and launched itself at the leading orc, its steed bolting away from the apparition, its eyes rolling back into its head as its' heart gave out and it fell to the floor sending its rider tumbling.  The mists continued to rise, becoming denser and denser until it must surely block the rest of their foes.  Alas, a foul black wind picked up in response to the Inquisitors calls, the power of Izrador sweeping through her conjuration and the riders kept on gaining.

As they drew close Singing Sparrow tried another gambit, calling upon the spirits of the orcs own steeds and attempting to bow them to her will.  The horses of the orcs all dipped their heads in submission and pulled up in mid canter, tipping their riders to the ground as our heroes galloped onwards.  The Inquisior's horses eyes merely flashed a baleful red as it quickened its pace once more.  Its rider raised its palm and sent a blast of holy power forth, striking the halfling in the back and knocking her from the saddle.  As she rolled to a stop she looked up to see one of the Witchburners advancing menacingly upon her, a flail held in one hand, it's chains writhing as if with a life of their own, grotesquely carved gargoyle heads on the end of each snarling with malice as they danced.

The Inquisitor galloped on, now turning his attention to Hrothgar.  Dark tendrils of power gripped the Dorn's heart, pain squeezing through him as it choked the breath from him.  Unable to control his own body he slipped from the saddle and crashed to the ground.  His limbs refusing to move he could only watch in mute horror as the Inquisitor deftly dismounted and slowly walked towards him.

In the lead, Eldiran saw ther comforting sight of a treeline rushing towards him, the shady bows of woods offering much needed succour to the elf.  Seeing Eldiran disappearing into the woods Eondir drew up his own flight.  The Dragon Case was safe, but he was tired of running.  Drawing his sword he turned his horse and galloped towards Singing Sparrow's prone form.  Or rather, her half dozen forms, for she held off her orc attacker with a multiplicity of illusions which he was currently slicing to pieces.  The blade of Eirinn's Doom shining brightly as he swung it through the air.  The orc was tough though, his many scars a testament to a lifetime of brutality, and he lashed out in return with vardatch and flail, the daemonic heads of his weapon wrapping themselves around Eondir's leg, their tiny teeth burrowing into his flesh as the orc tried to pull him from the saddle.  Eondir wheeled his horse around for another pass, but a sudden weight on the back of his horse, the real Singing Sparrow, cloaked by invisibility, and a shout of "Run you fool!" brought sense to his fury and he turned and galloped once more for the treeline.

Hrothgar poured all his rage and hatred of his former master into trying to break free from the bonds that held him, but nothing could bring strength to his limbs.  As the Inquisitor stepped closer he recognised the face, the same man who had commanded the legion that had besieged Durgis Rock and whose name had been spoken of in hushed whispers about the military camps, Jael Caryan, the Witchbane.  He looked down upon the exposed brand of Izrador on Horthgar's neck with a sneer on his face as he whispered "Blessed Izrador, hear my prayer, I commend unto the shadow this traitor's soul.".  The pain clutching Hrothgar's heart turned to a terrible piercing agony as Jael's hand punched through his breastplate and ripped the Dorn's still beating heart from his chest.

Eldiran rushed headfirst onwards, his horse crashing through the undergrowth, before he was stopped short by a profusion of halflings appearing all around him, arrows notched and trained upon him.  A taller figure stepped forth, another elf, one of his southern cousins of the Danisil.  In hurried High Elven Eldiran explained about their friendship with Singing Sparrow and Stalking Cat, and of the Inquisitor pursuing them.  With no time for introductions the halflings dashed off, scouting through the forest in search of their compatriots as the Danisil guided Eldiran deeper into the trees, introducing himself as Nyvindil.

Eondir too reached the treeline, albeit with the sight of a remounted Jael galloping in his direction as the last thing he saw through the foliage.  Singing Sparrow, by now visible once more, bade him stop by a stream as they passed.  She staggered down from the horse and across to the water's edge, her body severely weakened by how much magical power she had demanded from it already, and with the last of her strength hurled her bracelet and amulets into the waters.  Eondir pulled her back up onto the horse as she desperately implored him to take a path away from the course of the river before lapsing into unconsciousness.

The false trail she had created by throwing away her magical charms, valuable though they were, combined with the thick forest terrain seemed to prove enough as they saw no further sign of Jael and after a couple of days surreptitious travel found their way to the halflings village, their garish tents a welcome splash of colour amid the grim landscape of Wogren Moor.  There Eondir was reunited with Eldiran and they could begin to plan the next leg of their quest.
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DaveTheMagicWeasel
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« Reply #24 on: September 10, 2011, 04:29:02 PM »

Sidenote

Well, two dead PCs in two weeks certainly got the players' attention!

Also, very pleased as DM at how it all went down with Jael.  Made sure it was obvious to them that they couldn't hope to beat him face to face and that the challenge was to outrun him, the fact it ended up with him slaughtering a helpless Hrothgar on top of crushing Durgis Rock has beautifully set him up as a recurring villain for later.

The players all still seem very in to it despite the PC deaths, which I take as a good sign.  Have been a couple of comments along the lines of "At some point I'd like to think there's at least a tiny chance of us winning.", but I intend to introduce a bit more hope and some opportunity for them to fightback post-Crown of Shadows after they meet Aradil, so for now the setting is working nicely in giving the game a bleak backdrop to set their later heroics against.

Escaping his pursuit has also pushed them up to level 4.  Eldiran and Eondir advance their True Archer and Mystic Blade classes respectively, and it means we'll be needing a couple of new level 4 characters:

Nyvindil, Steelblooded Danisil Wildlander 1 / Barbarian 1 / Fighter 2
New PC for Thran's player.  A bit odd to insert an elf into the group at this stage, but as I DM I prefer to say yes to what people want to play, plus the Danisil demon-hunting stuff is chock full of awesome story ides for later.  So, Nyvindil is an exile, ever since the terrible night when daemons slaughtered his entire village, but for some unknown reason left him unharmed, he's been hearing voices.  Voices that tell him to do terrible things.  He ran, ran as far from his home as he could, and somehow stumbled into the path of the free halflings of Wogren Moor.  They took the jungle elf in and he's been living with them ever since.  For some reason the voices haven't been so loud since he's been with them.  He fears what will happen if he leaves, but he feels a strange pull of destiny towards the newcomers and has volunteered to travel with them and help guide them.

In terms of mechanics - he's a Spring Attacker, with a 60 ft move speed (Quick Stride, Halfling Fighter from Steel & Shadow & Barbarian Fast Movement) wielding an Atharak, with Improved Trip thrown in.  Few rules bent, but I vetoed erethor tea & hearthstones from his equipment list so figure I'd give him something back, plus Dodge and Mobility always struck me as an unreasonable feat tax so I've merged them into a single feat.  Wants to pick up Whirlwind as his Tome feat later, where the +6 BAB ability will turn him into a very destructive force.

Ragnar, Dragonblooded Dorn Charismatic Channeler 4
Hrothgar's new PC.  A native of Baden's Bluff who was investigating a Power Nexus when goblin slavers set upon him and captured him (see intro scene next session...).  Background still to be fleshed out, but with the PCs heading in the general direction of Baden's Bluff/Green March/Sea of Pelluria as their best chance of crossing the frontlines into Erethor should come in useful as a means to introduce them to the city's various factions.

Mechanically - Wanted to be a blaster and a charisma monkey.  Taken the Dornish Legacy Traits from Honour & Shadow, houseruled to trigger off of the Condition Track we're using rather than track Deprivation as well, which if anything makes them better as the Conditions can be inflicted from numerous sources.  As he's taken the Dragonblood path I let him qualify for the Draconic Breath feat (Complete Arcane), combined with Lesser Evocation and Lesser Conjuration for a mix of blasting and battlefield control, then Dragonblood Bonus Spell for Charm Person combined with excellent Cha skills to make him a much needed party face.  Looking to pick up Greater Evocation for more blasting, and Greater Conjuration with an eye on entering Spirit Speaker.
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