We rejoin our heroes Seck the rogue, Ya the L2 scout, Layton the fighter, and Luth the L2 fighter who with their patron Count Anton are in for the fight of their lives!
Combat – to the death!
Battle layout: essentially a 40′ square chamber with a pedestal dead center providing some limited cover/terrain and one 5′ tunnel leading away 20′ to the outside world. The door to that tunnel is wide open and plays no part in the battle. Mentally place that 5′ exit at due north, middle of wall, directly in line with the pedestal, and you have it. Terrain is level stone, except that the small corpse of a pocket dragon lies near the entrance and shards of some opaline substance are scattered near the pedestal. A torch, burning but on the floor, provides illumination for most of the room.
The bulk of the party are ranked not defending the doorway as such but ready to strike cultists as they attempt to force themselves in. Ya and Layton are opposite one another at the wall, Ya left, Layton right; Luth and Seck are close to one another to Ya’s right and Count Anton is backing Layton up.
However: two cultists who appeared to have been cut down as they forced their way past have just risen, and two more are still trying to get through; and the enemy leader Nadarr has blurred past everyone (taking one knock) to stand at the far end of the room.
These cultists seem to be able to breathe fire or summon flame, and heal remarkably. Nadarr himself seems to have all three powers!
And for the adventurers, while relatively unscathed, exhaustion is a factor. Only Luth has been able to avoid at least one level.
Top of round 2: while waiting for the GM to find the init track from last session, short instructions/tactics are permitted.
“Leave Nadarr to me! You take those others!” – Count Anton
“If ya put one down hit ‘im again!” – Ya
“Yeah heads off’ll stop ’em” – Luth
Inits: Nadarr, Layton, Seck, Count Anton, Luth/Ya, cultists
Nadarr stands poised, with rapier in a high stance. His body language screams “bring it!” [His turn ended at close of last session but he has plenty of reaction and legendary moves…]
Layton strikes the cultist immediately before him. A savage blow but the man(?) shifts and the glaive blade simply tears the robe. Seck, cursing not having a head-reaper weapon, stabs the cultist Luth is menacing and staggered by the savage blow he looks ready to drop. Seck uses his second short sword, and the cultist falls! Count Anton advances, fencing style, drawing Nadarr’s eye to him. Then screams as he dodges the worst of hellish flames! But he presses his attack home [great CON SV] – his rapier flicks out but Nadarr bats it clear and rakes the Count’s eyes with a sharpened thumbnail – blinding him! Now, Luth fells the other ‘just-revived’ cultist and Ya smashes his maul at the cultist Seck felled. From the tunnel, the previously-dying cultist reaches round and stabs Ya. Layton scythes his glaive at the disheveled cultist attempting to vault across the pile of dead and dying, trapping the group of three still-standing cultists at the doorway. Luth and Ya are enveloped in flame though only Ya takes significant damage.
Round 3: Nadarr, realizing the Count is blinded, goes for the kill but unbelievably, some concealed armor worn under the Count’s good clothing turns the blade. Nadarr steps slightly to one side but otherwise remains at close quarters. Layton shreds another side of the cultist’s robes revealing the weird not-quite human shape beneath them. Seck still has a cultist in from of him, stabs and drops him. Then unsure as to what will save Anton, sticks close to Ya and stabs a fallen cultist. Count Anton backs away [disengage] ending up with back to pedestal [a d6 decides this] and manages to clear his vision.
“A dirty fighter – I might have known – who are you really?” – Count Anton
“YOU were the one hanging out with him – don’t ask me!” – Luth, sarcastically
Ya hammers his maul at the cultist in the tunnel but she steps back clear while Luth gets his second wind and shifts to attack Nadarr. A short blade bounces off his chain as he moves away and Nadarr, seeming to expect him, thrusts his rapier and quaffs a potion! The cultists in side the chamber both attack Seck. He parries, but one only. He falls! Meanwhile one is healed by the cultist in the corridor – who also breathes flame! Ya hurls himself to one side and takes minor damage from flame.
“AHAHAHAHAHAHAAA Now I have two of you in my face!” – Nadarr
The cultist’s rapier flicks out at Count Anton and Luth ducks, catching a thumbnail on his helmet
“That must hurt!” – Luth
“Clearly you have been taught by an oaf” – Count Anton, parrying and kicking Nadarr
Layton focuses on the robe-slashed cultist, manages to connect and cuts him down. He can easily reach the other cultists but in turn they block him off from Seck.
Count Anton thrusts but Nadarr laughingly parries it off into the floor
“And look who has been taught by a novice! HAHAHAHAHAAAA!!” – Nadarr
Ya and Luth both connect solidly; Ya tries to gauge whether he can drag Seck clear but can’t. Nadarr, wounded, whips his thumb back and blinds Luth. Leaping towards Layton the last cultist inside the room screams something [in draconic] and the other also leaps in from the doorway. Layton reels, on his last legs.
Round 4: Nadarr shifts away from Luth and Count Anton as though he is a will o’ wisp and stabs Layton, felling him. Flames suddenly burst afresh from his hands. But Count Anton races after him and thrusts his rapier home – it’s not deep but it’s enough! Nadarr falls! Luth gropes forward to what he hopes is the pedestal [d6 indicates half-left] and Ya attempts to cow the cultists, but this time his voice is unconvincing – given that just he and the Count are fit to fight! Ya is more or less behind the cultist that felled Layton and swings mightily – but the maul glances off the hard skin of the cultist. Who heals Nadarr!
“Stab ‘im again!” – Ya
“Shall we talk about this? I think we can reach an accommodation!” – Nadarr, rising
“Never! You have betrayed me for the last time!” – Count Anton
Round 5: Nadarr leaps at Count Anton and thrusts him through. Then steps back and as Ya attempts to move, flames he and Ya (and cultists) as Count Anton attempts to make his attack. Count Anton falls, smouldering! Nadarr quaffs another potion.
[Good point for Ya and Luth to check their bonds – “I will lay down my life for those who fought beside me”]
Ya disengages and swallows his potion. Luth finds a door, but it is locked. [He’s against the west wall] At last, his eyes stop streaming and he can see. Nadarr is screaming things [in draconic] and two cultists are left. They each attack one adventurer. Luth’s sturdy chain easily turns the blade but Ya is not so lucky.
Round 6: Nadarr moves over to Count Anton’s body, screaming something at him, kneeling and clutching at something on the floor. Ya and Luth both fell their cultist and close in on Count Anton. Luth action-surges and rams his longsword through Nadarr! The two frenziedly chop and crush until there is no chance of the wretch rising.
Eventually, battle rage fading, they light a new torch, swig water, bathe burns and check comrades.
Seck Layton and Count Anton are alive!
Heads of cultists are removed, just in case.
As the three fallen slowly regain consciousness the mobile two move more stones to fully block the outer entrance. They realize the cultists quietly removed blocks while the adventurers were preoccupied with Alder’s body and the pocket dragon. It’s not good for breathing (torches in confined quarters!) but it allows enough of a rest for them to be able to move more freely and for their comrades to wake. Count Anton finds his three silvers (dropped on the floor last ep) have been stacked on his chest.
“We got a pretty good haul. Trouble is, Ya’s estimate is there’s no water between here and Leischport – and only Nadarr had water, and only a cupful at that.” – Luth, explaining and hefting a pouch of coin
“I have one skin left” – Seck
“Luth too, but that means we have to return now, like it or not, while it’s dark and cool” – Ya
Count Anton is still somewhat optimistic about searching further beyond the three locked doors but this is not the time for it. They all agree that they will return, and stack heavier gear, and set out for the walk back. Before they leave though, Seck re-camouflages the entrance using whitish local clay.
“Where there’s life there’s hope! And the opal pieces – you’re still carrying them?” – Count Anton
The loot actually taken out:
- 6 Knife hilts
- Opaline fragments
- 225 silver worth of various coin
- Fine quality rapier
- Noble-looking flimsy dagger
- 5 Secret cult tokens
- 2 Thumb-spurs made of some chitin-like red substance
- 2 healing potions (2d4+3)
Under a sickle moon
Three grimly determined men lead the way. Ya’s sense of direction and keen night-eyes [and DC12 survival check] guide the party back until below the Mounds he sees a stand of trees. On the way to the Mounds these were inconsequential, barely noticed. Now with everyone dragging (he himself is at half speed) it looks like an oasis.
Ya’s keen night vision picks up perhaps half a dozen armed and heavily armored men. Off in the more distant trees the sickle moon suggests horses.
He crouches, and most of the others do likewise. Layton simply stops still (the effective way to not make a noise) but Seck ambles forward unseeingly and walks right up to the group.
“Hold! Stand and account for yourselves!” – marshal Hatton Acklin
These are fighting clerics of the One True Faith – or Inquisitors to give them their usual term.
“Looks like we come clean – let’s go” – Luth, slapping Ya on the back
The truthfulness of Luth, coupled with reasonable politeness, helps ease tension. But Ya’s body language is bad. In fact he crouches in an almost fetal position as the Templars’ gaze probes him. [Ya’s player makes the Spanish Inquisition crack after a previous warning about it, and is at disadvantage with all dealings with the clerics. And he has a secret he would do anything to avoid others knowing about.]
Luth makes sure Ya has water and excuses his poor form:
“We have fought fire”
Seck hears one mutter to Hatton “he is tainted.” The attitude of the inquisitors becomes challenging. Hatton sternly speaks:
“You do not mind… waiting… I take it. One of my riders will ride for assistance, we will get you back to Leischport as soon as may be. And you my lord, you may… choose to ride with the rider if you wish.”
“You of course know Count Anton… expert on dragons… of much assistance during the war” – Luth
“Some say his opinions veered from the orthodox and into some weird… well I don’t need to get into this. But you are right – Count Anton you will also remain here.”
The galloping hoofbeats of the messenger fade into the deep night.
Hope rises with the dawn
Having discussed whether Luth’s directions can be followed there’s some clarification of detail. [Luth’s player is clear again, he is telling the truth]
“Your assistance has been noted, Starag, Luth. (Make a note of their tags)” – Hatton to Luth then aside to a rider.
Water is shared and save for Ya they rest. Ya is just hunched down enduring the scrutiny. [Good CHA check with disadvantage] Luth starts up a game of 3-dragon ante to pass the hours. Count Anton does the best he can to sleep after speaking quietly of the three other doors. Luth hushes him! [Uses inspiration to cancel disadv and a DC11 I judge is OK given Count Anton’s favorable attitude.]
Come the dawn…
“They tell the truth… save that they didn’t mention the three other doors… or false doors, heh” – inquisitor returning with the lads’ equipment. The equipment (heavy gear) is handed back, signaling a return to cordial relations.
The arrival of a pony and trap from Leischport is the signal for the party to break up on cordial terms. Hatton gets direction from a couple as to where any proceeds can be forwarded.
[And an OOC check as to whether any character will not accept proceeds from bits of cultists. Everyone is in. Luth has some moral qualms, Layton and Ya are fine with it. Seck is OK with it.]
Although the lads were hoping for an extravagant reward, they have been paid in advance for the day’s work, and had a free drink off him. They agree Count Anton will share the swag. Ya and Luth invest 20 silver to hire a gig sturdy enough to endure most of the way up to the Mounds and the lads recover all gear and Alder’s body. Seck confirms what the inquisitors said: the other three doors are false.
Seck is level 2!
Wondering where to sell gear:
- A jeweler of the north side will be approached, with the opaline fragments.
- No decision on the rapier, dagger, knife-hilts and thumb-spurs (and tokens) [but this can be ret-conned if relevant]
Pais comes through
While cremating the monk’s body, they comically forget his name, meet Durin a dwarf priest who in turn calls in passive-aggressive-hot-elf-librarian Brecbry from the library to advise on elf-related details. Pais shows up, following the sniff of interesting arcane stuff. Luth and Ya catch him up.
“Good news boys, let’s head to a pub, first round’s on me” – Pais
“Absolutely, let’s drink to the memory of Alvin” – Luth
“Alvin Shirtlifter was it?” – Pais
“Eat drink and be merry…” – Ya, picking up an inspiration
Pais spreads the 125 gold ransom he received back via Sir Galant, less the 1gp he just spent shouting the round, between the four that took part (Pais, Ya, Seck and Luth).
We spend a good stint of time – maybe 40 minutes – on a mid-season check-in. Calling it a review is probably not quite right though that’s how I pitch it. There are learning points on both sides. At the end of the hour I feel we are probably now on the same page, in the same campaign. And just as importantly, the campaign will continue!
The new crew
[Some of this following includes some previewing and post-introduction deciding of which characters to bring in]
Some time has passed since the archeological events just narrated, and Layton and Seck are well down in funds, especially Layton. Of their old crew Luth and Ya are probably in Schmitford or hunting bounties around Stiglehold and Count Anton has moved on. They are seated at a convivial southside tavern table alongside a few wanderers. The gossip is of Earl Damose calling a council of nobles, to discuss something worrisome… exactly why is in the realm of speculation.
You’ve been recommended!
Vir Onden, the ranger who adventured with Layton a few months back, approaches.
“I hear good things about your last job, Layton. Ended some dragon cult mischief, got the patron back alive. Can I introduce you to Carrac? He’s an emissary…”
“I understand that you are comrades of Vir…?” – Carrac
Layton hesitantly sticks his hand up. A blond goateed man of medium build cocks an ear. Seck pays attention. A robed callus-handed dwarf also at the table listens politely.
Carrac appears to be a well-dressed serious elf. He explains that his ruler, Prince Kaliel of Elin Barad, has a mission that is best undertaken by non-elves.
“Deniability?” – Seck, cynically
“It’s not so much that, honored Seck, it is… a difficult diplomatic balance in the forest of my kin. They do not wish, themselves, to be seen as hostile…”
At this point both the new acquaintances, drinking companions of Layton and Seck, suggest retiring to a more private area.
Let us first meet Cat, who has intruded in this pleasant but casual manner. Blond like many Teulon and with a goatee; middling height and tending to slender build. He’s noticeably good-looking and his easy personality outweighs the deficit around the table. A joke for every occasion, with a sordid debt of the wrong kind of upbringing to a man he left to rot in prison, and with the light of greed shining in his honest blue eyes.
Next let us meet Thordan Steelfist, of sturdy dwarf height and build, beneath whose placid and fatalistic exterior the heart of a rebel beats. Putting the best face on his situation he tells the company that his order bade him explore the world. He is clearly broke, relying on the goodwill of strangers.
Layton as we know is sturdy, even hefty in build, rough-hewn and lightly scarred but cheery. Seck is middle height and lithe. Both are men of honor.
We’re your men!
Carrac is willing to guarantee passage to and from the southern forest. So if they do not elect to take the job, they will not be left to fend for themselves. He checks they aren’t tied to the current gathering of nobles. Also whether they can swim, though that’s not of great consequence.
He speaks broadly of princely reward, perhaps enchantment or the gold that his kin wash out of southern rivers… They accept the offer to throw in on this mission!
Layton heads away to warn Grizel that he will be absent some time and ask her not to miss him too much.
[A CHA check with advantage for Layton later…]
Grizel’s old man tends to take it badly but, as he collects himself from the piss-alley behind the shack, he remembers who’s boss and bids Layton fare ye well and be back soon. Bearing in mind Grizel’s loving fingers Layton makes sure she hasn’t lifted his purse and kisses her a fond goodbye.
Later Thordan earns five coppers fixing a wall that some thick-headed clown has thrown some other thick-headed clown through.
Physical prep: mail is oiled, weapons sharpened. Seck [Cat negotiating] hires a gig for the trip as far as Neilsfort to carry packs and water/beer. Cat decides to take his light crossbow – if it doesn’t work out he can always lose it.
Gossip in the north [WIS checks are good for Seck and Cat] firms up that the issue the Earl is discussing is increased raising from goblins, coming from the south.
Some basic checking around
[Resources tapped for information: Pais, man at arms of Sir Neils, another guard knowing something about the south.]
These are apparently Horned Skull goblins, tough and wily, but not expansionist in this manner. The days when ransom could be arranged seem to be disappearing.
The elves live in the Farwood. Pais points to an empty space on the bottom edge of a map.
“Little is known about the Farwood. All bad things, and elves” – Pais
“Any records of Horned Skull goblins?” – Cat
“I seem to recall Seck tying a goblin with that symbol up, we brought him along for ransom… we had good intentions but it didn’t work out that way… it was in the Oakwood just outside this city” – Pais
On the way out Cat exchanges a few words, including in elven, with Brecbry.
Assured that though the map doesn’t show it, there’s a viable trail from Leischport to Mardleton then Neilsfort, they lay plans accordingly, and the trip begins.
An easy passage
In the half-light of dawn Cat swills most of his beer, and studies the dregs for a message from his lady. [It will be retro-revealed, when relevant.] Thordan is already sitting in the back of the gig in an uncomfortable posture.
Mardleton is an uneventful point on the journey and Carrac, as good as his word, moves them through without needing to show identity.
Neilsfort strikes the scout and fighter as somewhat poorly laid out, as though someone had said ‘that’s where we build the keep, you lot sort yourselves out.’ Again Carrac’s authority as emissary sidesteps any scrutiny. Here, the gig driver ends his journey, and the short march to the Farwood begins.
Into the Farwood
The Farwood is a jungle, at least to the eyes of the adventurers. It’s hard to believe how humid the air and how slow the passage is, and Carrac’s elf-splaining how he slips through the undergrowth is not helping. And as he reaches the secret entrance to Elin Barad and it opens for the party, the session ends.