DGA11.03: Ironwood Gorge part two – Abrithiax

The level 11 heroes for this session

Ulric von Kessel, Defender of the Faith, Lion of Brindol, Savior of Gold Hill;
Cat Weasel, friend of Elin Barad, minor tier Rumbler, friend of the One True Faith, Savior of Gold Hill;
Seck Rustrau, doom of Gleekmound, ear-taker, friend of Elin Barad, enemy of Sebek, friend of the One True Faith;
Phoenix Pilandaros, enemy of Sebek, and friend of the One True Faith

The heroes begin on 5,579xp with no story bonus, and add 8,590 plus 10% story bonus. They gain level 12! With 585xp spare.

The story so far

Elsir Vale lies east of where the Alshon, journeying south, joins the Elsir river and bends west. This secluded region is where the hobgoblin warlord has decided to strike. Our heroes find themselves pitching in to help the small community at Drellin’s Ferry, then as the town evacuates east, strike west along the old highway into the Thorn Waste and up into the Ironwood ranges. They are determined to strike at the leadership of the warlord’s western army, and in particular, kill Abrithiax, a red dragon.

Party order: Seck, Ulric and Cat and the pack nag, Phoenix

Nature and Survival checks: no problem with Survival, schmaverage Nature.

Undead? It is the Thorn Waste after all

The storm has passed over, at least for now. Cat has just finished hearing as much as the paladin can easily tell him as they ride into the Thorn Waste fringes, of its dangers. Then he looks up:

“Huh, here’s Seck. Must be trouble.”

The rogue calls:

“I smell carrion. Either undead, or something we should at least scout.”

The party dismounts and works its way cautiously, deeper into the scrubland and trees. Then Seck, who has picked his way a little quicker than the others, retreats from a mob of zombies shambling towards them!

“Time to lay down the barrage! Wall of Light!” Cat casts, as soon as he sure Seck will not be hit. He misses the lead zombie but all the others disintegrate as they ramble forward. Phoenix flexes, winds up with Mocair, and hits the lone lead zombie so hard its torso cartwheels away.

“I wonder where they come from?”

“There is that Dark Tower in the region,” Ulric observes.

“Ah yes, the Undead Lord. I have a bone to pick with him,” Cat agrees grimly. For the time being, he has placed the good of the vale above that of his lady love Elke.

Festering carrion!

It later that same morning. Now, the trail runs alongside a stream, which may be merely a ditch most of the year. The woods rise deep to the left, and the distant Ironwood range cannot be seen above the treetops.

Seck again rides back:

“Could be undead again… we need to fan out…”

Phoenix arrives: they all dismount, and swiftly hobble the horses save for Bestallen who needs no rope. Taking it that the overflowing stream to their right will ward that flank, Seck heads up left into the trees, Phoenix next, and Ulric and Cat stick to the trail.

Huge Assassin Bugs erupt from bloated hobgoblin corpses! There are plenty to go around!

Phoenix deals with one, and Seck – evading the worst of a sting – dashes down to reinforce him, dealing with a second, before they have to turn to face the pair chasing Seck. Down at the road, Ulric cleaves one while Cat, who has been badly stung, evades using a powerful Shocking Grasp. Then the second one they both deal with, but not before Ulric too is stung.

Cat holds his breath and swiftly relieves the dead of their healing potions. It seems to have been a four-hobgoblin patrol that fell foul of the things. Each corpse crawls with immense maggots that are rapidly maturing and Cat spams Create Bonfire as never before!

“We’re about to be hit with the other side of the storm,” Seck warns. He is stating the obvious: by the time they remount, the rain is once again hammering off their armor or anoraks. Cat mentally reminds himself to chat to Sertieren about a Mending spell. His lovely anorak has a couple of large holes in it…

The bridge

“On the bright side, this heavy rain will mask me completely and keep guards heads down,” Seck remarks. He’s about to scout. The mounts are all hobbled some distance back from where the Thornwood has been cleared around Ironwood Gorge, and the others wait to hear what Seck finds.

Seck returns after a ten-minute scout. It is not long past midday. As he nibbles light rations, he describes the set-up.

“I didn’t see the dragon, but I saw evidence that it is in the vicinity.”

“Could it possibly be large?” Ulric wonders.

“From what we know and have fought, the only dragons in existence are all raised from the egg, only a few years ago. But let’s not make assumptions,” Cat warns, “if it turns out to be a massive ancient one, let’s just quietly leave.”

“It’s hard to say how many guards could be in each tower, but not many,” Seck advises, “they have a camp beyond, and the storm is keeping them snug there.”

“So let’s use our chance!”

Cat walks confidently forward as the others spread out ready to meet a counter-strike. Suddenly, he is at the brink of the chasm! Surface water washes off the bare ground and cascades down, right before his feet! Peering through the downpour he aims along the line of the bridge and left, raises the Staff of the Seas, and casts Vortex!

Seck’s Skulker vision has allowed him to advise Cat on where to stand and aim

Time to retreat! The others see Cat, head up, feet pumping, breaching the treeline, as the flapping wings of something LARGE become audible.

Inits: Phoenix, Seck, Abrithiax, hellhounds/handler, Ulric/Cat, hobgoblin heavies.

Abrithiax makes an excellent Perception check, flies in from the south-east at 50′, swoops to 30′ to deliver its fiery breath attack, and swoops back up to 50′. Seck is basically unharmed and the others make fine DEX SVs. Cat snaps Mental Prison at it but Abrithiax does not even need to use its legendary Save. Seck is able to take a careful sighting and Maelsauga (who has been sulking at being used on things like zombies and flies) snakes eagerly through the leaves above and slams deep!

Young Red Dragon

“Well, we’ve got our reaction!” – Cat

“You mean this plan is actually working the way you wanted??” – Ulric

“OK brace yourself O paladin, this next move is gonna be super-exciting!” – Cat

“Wait why do you suddenly sound like a teenage gir- whaaaaaaa!” – Ulric, suddenly finding himself atop Abrithiax.

Cat, who has moved to the paladin’s side and Stepped with him, teeters and falls. There’s no point dropping the Staff just to hang on – his job was to get the musclehead up there. He activates Levitate and bungies to a point some feet from the ground, then bounces back up to the feet the spell allows.

Ulric hammers and Smites Abrithiax with level 3 Smite: it flies for safety towards the tower it has its potions stashed in, and snaps back at Ulric, jaws scissoring through his plate armor like sabers through gambeson.

Meanwhile, realizing the battle has moved away, Phoenix slides back down from a tree he had been trying to climb, and advances towards where Cat fell. Seck sneaks through the trees to good sniping position at the fringe. Again his Skulker vision comes into play: he spots a flier like a great bird, heading rapidly towards Cat. Coming off the bridge are a pair of hellhounds, and somewhat back from them, a lone hobgoblin.

Hell Hound

Phoenix readies: takes the pain of the fire breath, and cleaves a hellhound as it and its mate bite him. Then turns on the other hellhound, and cleaves that as well!

Seck snipes at the great bird: it interposes its goblin rider, and flies away as the wretch’s body falls.

“Result!” – Seck

Cat volleys at the Hobgoblin, who retires, hurt, then falls as four heavy-armed hobgoblins catch it.

Meanwhile Ulric keeps his grip, and again slams Abrithiax. And again! Its head comes off as the final Smite effects, and it plummets into the gorge!

Ulric hits the water with bone-jarring force and sinks like a plate-armored paladin. But swigs his Underwater Breathing potion with no problem! His Helm allows him to see 40′ around him. River fish have fled the crashing arrival, and the riverbed appears to offer a rough shelf up. He clambers up, easily enough, and finds himself within a short climb of a dark entrance. And the session ends.

DM Notes

This session featured a lot of nat 20s. I think all players and the DM rolled at least three. It was very entertaining! Next session the party begins in two distinct parts, with team Up dealing with the other tower guards and any remaining Vortex survivors, and Ulric hacking his way up through the warrens. Stay tuned!

Props

Ironwood Gorge uses strong elements of Red Hand of Doom (Baker and Jacobs, Wizards of the Coast), elements of The Devil of Murder Cliffs (Casey Christofferson, Frog God Games), and is based on Ironwood Gorge (Eric Jones, Ludibrium Games).

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