Trying to Get a Head
…why don’t you come on ogre?
Session 3, the Hill
The adventurers gathered in the Lion’s Den, planning their next attempt on The Hill. They leaned over one of the wooden tables, studying the map carved into it’s surface. The simple woodcutting represented all that they had discovered on their previous treks. They had determined that The Hill’s reputation as dangerous was well deserved, and knew that their meager band of a Mage, a Cleric, and a Thief wouldn’t stand a chance unaided.
“We have money from the gems I sold…” stated Belgarath the Miser, “I sold the two amethyst gems from that statue we found…” a faraway look entered Belgarath’s eyes, his voice dropping to a more conspiratorial tone, “She only wanted to give us two-hundred gold, but I drive a hard bargain!” he clenched his fist before him as he thought of the sale of the gems to Ivanna, reeve to the local lord. The others rolled their eyes as Belgarath turned triumphal, “…but remember, you all owe me 20 gold!”
“I’d really like to find a pet!” blurted the Elven Ranger, Kane. It was strange…he didn’t normally say much, but the last few days he had seemed obsessed with finding an animal… of some sort.
“Uh…” Caasi began, “I thought you had some elven festival, ‘Flight of the Lear’ or something, you had to be at?”
Kane looked at her darkly, “I’d really like to find a pet!” he repeated, before easing back into a shadowed corner of the room. He never seemed to be around when anyone was looking for him…
“Alright…” Kalasandr began, “…I can see, maybe, getting another wardog. But I think we need more muscle. Maybe we can find some prospective adventurers in Kelvin?”
“I’d like to visit the Church in Kelvin!” exclaimed Caasi, the useless flipper that was what remained of her left hand flopping as she spoke excitedly.
There was a moment of awkward silence as the others watched the grotesque spectacle, before studiously returning their gazes to the carved map of The Hill before them.
8th of Yarthmont, AC 999
Characters: Belgarath (Mage), Stikini (Owl Familiar), Cerberus and Bob (Belgarath’s War Dogs), Caasi (Cleric), and Kalasandr (Thief), plus Belgarath’s Henchmen Dara (NM), Earl (NM), and Mearl (NM)
Mortal Wounds: Mearl suffered notable scarring to his face when it was ripped open by an Ogre’s club (-2 to impersonate another)
Levelled: Dara (Fighter Level 1), Earl (Fighter Level 1), and Mearl (Fighter Level 1)
The third session found the party unable to agree on actions outside of the game (over the forum) in time for us to deal with them online. As such, we began the session with the party heading south to the city of Kelvin in search of dogs and able-bodied adventuring hopefuls.
The trip was entirely uneventful, as the party followed the well-patrolled Duke’s Road, with only the first dozen miles or so being through the borderlands near Guido’s Fort; thereafter, the signs of civilization near Kelvin were clear, with small hamlets and tended fields along the road. Reaching the city itself early the next morning, the group spent the next week buying a pair of wardogs named Cerberus and Bob, as well as recruiting Henchmen, with Dara, and her brothers Earl and Mearl being the result. Belgarath had convinced them he was a powerful wizard through the use of a simple Ventriloquism spell, and they were happy to have signed on with such a “potent” employer, as the riches ahead would undoubtedly beat farm work.
Returning to Guido’s Fort early on the 14th of Yarthmont, Kalasandr quickly found The Old Timer at the public house. He showed the old drunk a hand-drawn sketch of the statue they had encountered, and the man visibly blanched. After some direct questioning (and a lip-loosening libation), The Old Timer explained that he recognised the goat-legged figure as Orcus, an Immortal of Entropy who had been secretly worshipped when The Old Timer was a young man. Yet how did the The Old Timer know that if it was done in secret?
Unable to prise any more information from the ancient alcoholic, Kalasandr quickly joined the others at the dilapidated jetties lining the shore near the fort. The local fisherman, Boris, and his young son, Drajan, met the party and ferried them across the water.
Disembarking at the now familiar marshy northern landing, the party quickly moved inland to the clearing where they had faced the giant bees. Keeping low, the group moved through the clearing hidden in the tall grass. Faint buzzing was heard from the northeast of the clearing, but no further bees were encountered. The party exited the far side and made the arduous hike along the trails back to where they had previously discovered the cave and the statue.
Everything was as they had left it, with Belgarath’s owl familiar unable to find any recent tracks, either around the clearing, or in the entrance to the cave. Eager to finally discover a dungeon (or cave) to plunder, the party quickly ignited a lantern and pushed through the heavy, waist-high underbrush choking the cave entrance.
As the gloom of the cave descended on them, the party listened intently for any sound. Only the echoes of the wind outside came back to them from within. Cautiously moving forward, the party saw the cave expand and begin branching, with three main paths ahead: left, ahead, or back to the right.
“Which way?” whispered Kalasandr.
“Left! Always to the left!” said Caasi, emphatically. The others studied their boots, and generally tried to avoid looking at her ruined arm. Choosing to explore the branch to the left, the passage soon came to an end in an ever-tightening mass of stalactites and stalagmites.
Doubling back, the party took the branch that went back and to the right. This tunnel wound for a few dozen feet before opening into a small chamber dominated by a small pool. The water was opaque and brown, apparently containing minerals from a large stalactite that hung from the roof of the cave above the water. Terrified by the little pool of water, Kalasandr pulled a 10’ pole from beneath his cloak (“It’s so big!” the others remarked), and cautiously stuck his pole in the dirty wet hole, fearing swift death. His pole struck bottom a few inches below the surface. Nothing else happened.
Greatly relieved, the party moved back to the largest branch of the cave, which continued on more-or-less straight from the entrance and further split into left- and right-hand branches.
“Which way?” Belgarath asked.
“I told you!” replied Caasi, “Always to the left.”
Kalasandr tried hard to keep his eyes on her face. Anywhere but the flipper, really, “Ahh…right. I mean, okay. I’ll scout ahead.”
Relieved of the struggle to avoid looking at the Cleric’s injury, Kalasandr pressed ahead. Moving silently into the shadows, the thief took the left-hand branch. Already at the limit of the lantern light, the ceiling soared into darkness as the passage opened into an enormous chamber.
Kalasandr waited for the rest of the party to catch up, and they all stood, listening. A faint sound reached their ears… a rustling, rubbing sound, just as a low, unpleasant smell became apparent. Taking a step forward, the thief’s boot sunk into a sticky pile of… something. As the lantern moved up, the ceiling of the cavern became faintly visible, with a mass of dog-sized, furry lumps undulating in the middle of the enormous cavern’s roof.
With an explosion of leathery wings, a flock of enormous bats dropped from the cave-roof and descended on the party! Kalasandr was struck in the head by one of the huge bats, and nearly nocked from his feet, blood sheeting down his face. Dara and Kalasandr fired arrows and bolts at monstrous bats, with the Thief scoring a spectacular hit in the shadowed, stalactite-ridden gloom (natural 20!). Unfortunately, even such a precise shot (max damage!) failed to kill the bat.
The party began to panic as they realised they had once again bitten off more than they could chew, and within moments decided that they needed to withdraw. Unlike their last attempt at a strategic withdrawal ( where the party ran screaming in all different directions), this one was conducted with a modicum of organisation, and they were able to withdraw from the cave in good order, the bright sunlight forcing the bats to retreat back to their roost. Through some minor miracle, none of the party members, other than Kalasandr, were even injured during the entire encounter.
After Caasi Layed on Hands (Hand, actually) to cure Kalasandr of injury, a plan was quickly developed: the party would re-enter the cave, but would secretly camp at the end of the stalactite and stalagmite choked passage until the bats left. They re-entered without incident, and encamped themselves in the cold dark at the end the passage. Sure enough, as night fell, the bats left the cave to hunt, and the party was able explore unhindered. There was only a single unexplored passage, and that led to a cave-in. The small pool was re-examined, and all manner of objects inserted into it, but it appeared harmless. Lastly, the group thoroughly searched the bats’ roost, and there, under a stinking pile of guano, Belgarath discovered a heavy, wrought-silver chain necklace. Triumphant and smeared with poop, the party bedded back down in the side passage for the night, only rousing some time after the giant bats had returned to their roost in the morning.
Setting out from the cave, the party headed south out of the clearing, then eventually took a cross-trail headed to the west. This trail eventually emptied into a fair size clearing set between two large bluffs of the Hill. Nestled in the middle of the clearing was a small, attractive, whitewashed cottage with green shutters, surrounded by well-tended gardens. Terrified that they had discovered the horrible witch rumoured to live on the Hill, the group spent the next twenty minutes skirting the clearing and trying to assess the situation. Belgarath’s owl familiar, Stikini, scouted the clearing, and returned to explain that two elderly women were weeding a small vegetable patch just north of the cottage. Kalasandr bravely volunteered to make contact, and walked alone across the clearing to speak with the elderly women.
As it turned out, the old gals greeted Kalasandr kindly, and were all too happy to trade some refreshing mint tea for a chat. The rest of the group was soon waved over, and more mint tea was served. The women seemed impervious to conversation about the horrors on the Hill, and it had begun to seem as if little would result from the exchange. Suddenly, the idea of a trade came up, and the two old women abruptly changed their tone; gone was the light-hearted hospitality, and in its place was a barely concealed excitement that a deal might be made. The party eventually agreed to perform a service for the women, in exchange for healing if and when the party might drop by in the future. Now all they needed to do was return to the old women bearing the head of the largest, meanest ogre on the Hill.
Deciding the deal seemed worthwhile, the party agreed and were pointed in the right direction, finding themselves some time later at the end of the trail, overlooking a precipitous drop. They quickly negotiated their way down, and discovered two cave entrances in the base of the cliff: the southern-most leading to an enormous wooden door, the northernmost leading into darkness.
Opting for the uncertainty of darkness, the party first explored the northernmost cave. The walls, floors, and roof of this cave were all exceedingly smooth, with an almost polished, wet look to them. The only inhabitants of note were small, firefly-like insects that swarmed around people (and animals! Poor Bob the Dog…) and burned them with the heat of their fiery bodies. These were quickly doused with the water from a very warm standing pool (or stream). That threat eliminated, the party’s ears were soon assaulted by the sound of a tremendous gurgling from the back of the cave, which built in volume and intensity for a few moments. Then, terrible, roiling clouds of super-heated steam erupted from somewhere past the standing water, and the group was forced to flee for their lives before the intense blast. All managed to escape, but Caasi suffered burns to her back and neck.
Realising that an ogre sized door probably meant ogres, the party moved the southern-most cave entrance. A quick listen revealed raucous sounds resembling combat or intense merriment coming from within. For only the second time since we began this campaign, the party formulated a plan…
Under the cover of the noise from within, iron spikes would be hammered into crevices on either side of the oversized, wooden door; the rope would anchored across the passage to the door at ogre-ankle height, and held secure by Earl and his brother Mearl; Kalasandr would hide in what would become the space behind the door when it was opened; Caasi would stand back from the door with the wardogs; and Belgarath would stand at the cave entrance with Dara, who would be ready with her bow.
Kalasandr rapped on the door with the butt of his sword, and the party waited…
The huge door opened, and an ugly beastman, like a cross between a 7’ man and an ape, stood in the doorway, blinking in the light and looking dumbfounded. But not moving.
Caasi shouted a challenge, and Dara fired an arrow that shattered on the cave wall… and the beast howled and charged!
…only to trip on the taut rope and fall flat on his face. Kalasandr lunged from behind the door onto the back of the beast, and plunged the length of his blade into the small of the foul thing’s back. The beastman arched back, then slumped forward, unmoving.
The party froze in shock. It had worked! IT HAD WORKED!
A loud grumbling came from within the room beyond the door, and everyone realised their task wasn’t complete.
“Places!” hissed Kalasandr, and everyone returned to their positions.
A second, similar-sized beastman moved into the doorway, and howled at the sight of his kin. The thing charged into the passage, neatly hopping the trip-rope (made his Save versus Paralysis)! The party swarmed him, stabbing, biting, and slashing him until he collapsed in a heap atop the first ogre.
The party froze in shock. IT HAD WORKED AGAIN, AND NO ONE HAD EVEN BEEN INJURED!
A heavy bellowing emanated form deeper within the ogre dwelling, followed by the sound of heavy footfalls approaching.
“Reset! Reset!” shouted Belgarath, and the party resumed their positions.
A moment later, the biggest, ugliest, meanest looking ogre on the entire Hill burst from the doorway… and tore the rope from the grasp of the Henchmen! Belgarath responded by blinding the thing with a Light spell, and the party once again swarmed the beast. Caasi and Kalasandr narrowly avoided death at the end of its massive club, but the massive brute eventually collapsed under the weight of their assault.
Without waiting for anything else to happen, Belgarath, Caasi, and Kalasandr all shouted, “Places!” and the party returned to their ambush… and waited… and waited… and waited… until, eventually, the Ogre’s wife (who was quite possibly uglier than her husband) came searching for her mate, only to discover that the murder hob-I mean, PCs - had slaughtered her family.
She tore through the trip rope and lashed out at the party, smashing Mearl flat with a single blow. For all the good it did her. The party again surrounded their prey, and within a few moments the terrible ogress collapsed, bleeding out from a score of wounds.
This time, a cheer went up, and the party separated the “daddy” ogre’s ugly head from his ugly body. Mearl was revived and healed by Caasi, the poor Henchman in severe shock, but with nothing more than some distinctive scars to show for his near-death experience. They then searched the den, discovering some diminutive slaves, and several chests. One of the chests was padlocked, which Kalasandr managed to pick. Inside they found the ogre’s treasure stash of hundreds of gold and silver coins, along with a handful of gems. The party appropriated the treasure, released the slaves, and then headed back to the elderly women with the gruesome ogre’s head in hand.
Their bargain fulfilled, the adventurers received healing before heading back to Guido’s Fort, knowing they now have a seemingly safe stop where they can secure aid while on the Hill itself.
Once back amongst civilization, Dara and Earl decided that adventuring was both lucrative, and easy, and left Belgarath’s employ to strike out on their own. As much as they pleaded, their brother, Mearl, refused. He was a changed man after his near-death experience, and he swore undying loyalty to Belgarath.