Hobbling some Hobgoblins
…or, getting your gob hobbled!
(yes, I was really reaching when I titled this session)
Session 4, the Hill
The stalwart group of adventurers once again gathered around the map carved into the table in the common room of the Lion’s Den public house. Their prior exploration had yielded hints that danger lurked on The Hill, but they had found little solid evidence. They would need another expedition to find something concrete, but with Belgarath the Miser declining to join another expedition and taking his loyal man, Mearl, with him, they were notably understrength.
“Kelvin. We need to head to Kelvin, see if we can hire some more meatshie-I mean, Henchmen!” said Kalasandr, casting an embarrassed, sidelong glance at his hired man, Luka. The boy didn’t seem to have noticed, as he often tuned out when others spoke quickly.
“Hey, there… over here!” said Caasi, waving the flipper that was what remained of her poisoned arm. The others all seemed to find somewhere else to look, uncomfortable with the grotesque spectacle, “Now that we have some money, I need to go to the Church of Karameikos in Kelvin to see if they can help with this…” the flipper appeared to be waving goodbye.
“I’d really like to find a pet!”
Everyone started at that, turning to see Kane standing at the back of the group. Where had he come from? And why hadn’t they been able to find him earlier?
“What, like, a cat?” asked Kalasandr, somewhat confused. Kane’s elven eyes narrowed as he looked at the rogue. He then moved back into a shadowed corner of the common room without saying a word.
“Anyway…” Kalasandr continued, turning back to the carved map he’d been whittling, “…head to Kelvin, maybe some dogs, maybe some henchmen… what do you think?” he asked, turning expectantly to Endithas. The big man seemed to have joined them for their latest foray (though he’d never actually agreed to anything, remaining suspiciously mute). Endithas stared back at him, silently shrugging his shoulders.
Kalasandr sighed heavily, staring down at his latest additions carved into the table; how had he gotten involved with these people? Surely there were easier ways to make money? Like, say, robbing the Ducal Palace in Specularum…
16th of Yarthmont, AC 999
Characters: Caasi (Cleric 1), Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman, NM), Endithas Wolfram (Fighter 1), Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman, NM), Kalasandr (Thief 1), Luka and Waevryn (Kalasandr’s Henchmen, NM), Kane (Elven Ranger 1), 3 hunting dogs (belonging to Kane), and a partridge in a pear-tree.
Deaths: Luka skewered by Hobgoblins, along with Kane’s pack of hunting dogs
Mortal Wounds: Erasmus was rendered a quadriplegic by an unlucky whack from the butt of a Hobgoblin’s spear, and the tendons in Waevryn’s legs were slashed, leaving her barely able to walk.
Levelled: Kalasandr (Thief 2)
The party left Guido’s Fort in the drizzling rain, the trip to Kelvin being a cold, damp, and generally miserable affair. Muddy stretches of the road meant that they arrived at the Campgrounds (merchants’ palisade outside the city walls) on the evening of the 17th of Yarthmont. Caasi set out first thing in the morning to the Church of Karameikos, and had the Patriarch cast Restore Life & Limb on her flipper. Her arm was restored, although her close contact with Immortal power left her a changed person, ever-after muttering to herself incessantly.
On the second night in Kelvin, the party began to fan out through the Campgrounds and local watering holes, looking for unfortunates crazy enough to risk a life of adventure for meagre coin. Fortunately, over the next several days, they found a handful of such individuals, Caasi even turning down some who had fallen under the spell of her eating a banana. The party finally left the city on the 25th, three new Henchmen in tow, outfitted with the best gear their employers could afford (which meant Luka and Waevryn were given chain armor, and Erasmus received a shiny, new mace with Endithas’ initials scribed into it).
Returning to the fort on the morning of the 26th, the party discovered from Ivana that another family had been abducted from the surrounding region. They traveled out and investigated the farmstead, finding it in a state much like the first: the home ransacked, and the animals (pigs, in this case) and people missing. They also discovered a crude, iron arrowhead embedded in the outside of the home’s front door, though the rest of the shaft was nowhere to be found.
Kane spent some time scouring the farm, and discovered a large number of tracks similar to what they had found around the Dmitros’ homestead: half-a-dozen booted feet, and a far larger set of prints much bigger than those of a man. They followed these tracks back towards the river and the fort, with the tracks once again vanishing by the water, nearly within sight of the fort’s palisade.
Deciding time was of the essence, the party quickly secured transport across the river with Boris and his son, landing this time in the larger, southern clearing, split by a waterfall and small stream. Moving up to the only known trailhead to lead from the clearing, Kane searched and discovered tracks, although these appeared to be different from those at the farmstead, and smaller than those of a man.
After a short debate, it was decided to follow these tracks back to their source; a marching order was established, and Kane scouted some distance ahead of the group. When he reached the first cross-trail, he spent some time re-acquiring the tracks, then waited for the others. He let them know what he had found, then headed out in front again along the trail to the south, a path the characters had not previously taken. Half-an-hour later, the trail split, with a branch heading west, and another continuing to the south. Kane once again spent several minutes examining the tracks, determining that they continued south.
With the rest of the party updated, Kane once again moved out in front. A short time later, after crossing a creek and traversing the flank of a small ridge, Kane spotted movement on the trail ahead. He quickly determined it was an enormous Ogre marching towards him. The beast had not yet spotted him, so Kane doubled-back at a sprint towards the party. Once there, a plan was hatched (after much arguing, and nearly taking too long) to ambush the Ogre, with the party hiding just off the trail. Kane and Fodora would be at the farthest spot with bows, followed by Endithas Wolfram and Erasmus, then Caasi, Luka, Kalasandr, and Waevryn nearest the Ogre’s approach.
Several minutes passed, the party waiting with baited breath… then, the thud of heavy footfalls neared, and the oblivious Ogre marched past the party. Kane waited until the Ogre was between the first and second group, then he and Fodora let loose with arrows. The beast’s first warning of danger was when an arrow from Kane’s bow sprouted from his chest!
With a deafening roar, the beast raised its club and charged up the path. Two more arrows flew past it, and then two new foes leapt from cover and blocked the Ogre’s advance towards the archers, one of them bashing the brute, the other (Endithas) tangling his two-handed sword in a shrubbery. Attempting to crush these two new, puny foes, the Ogre brought its club down, narrowly missing a blow that would’ve turned Endithas to jelly. The rest of the party charged up towards the Ogre’s back, Kalasandr in the lead, hoping to repeat his ogre-slaying performance from a previous foray. It was not to be, however, as another of Kane’s arrows sprouted from the Ogre’s throat, and the monstrous thing collapsed in a heap with barely a gurgle.
After a brief victory dance, the party looted the corpse, shoving their hands into the Ogre’s dirty sack, looking for his jewels. They instead discovered hundreds of gold, which they pocketed. Kane also cut off one of the beast’s massive, wax-filled ears as a trophy leaving the rest of the party gagging at the sight. They then dragged the foul-smelling corpse 100 yards into the woods, and covered the signs of battle as best they could, washing themselves in the creek they had passed.
Continuing warily along the southbound trail, the party crossed the ridgeline and began descending the far side. Within another half-an-hour, the surrounding forest had become boggy, and as the trail turned westward, the party broke into a large clearing that dropped away to the south and became marshland. Terrified of another Ogre encounter in open terrain, the party skirted the northern end of the clearing amongst the trees. In spite of catching sight of some sort of built earthen structure to the south where the forest turned to swamp, they remained hidden, reaching the trail on the opposite side of the clearing. The group continued westward.
The trail slowly turned northward, rising as it went, and eventually intersected another trail running east to west. Kalasandr, with his Mapping Proficiency, immediately recognized the intersection as someplace he had previously been, and, after a brief discussion, it was decided to turn westward towards the mysterious cottage, with the goal of investigating another branch of the path they had seen running north.
A short time later, as the party advanced up this branch, a shout was heard from the path ahead, and several figures were seen running away from the party. Kane made out shouts in hobgoblin of, “Intruders!” and the party realised they had been spotted by sentries. Itching for action, the group broke into run, pursuing the fleeing Hobgoblins. They didn’t have to go far…
The trail soon emptied into a long open area beside a small lake that ran north-to-south. At the far northern end of the clearing was a series of huts and tents, and out of these boiled a dozen Hobgoblin warriors, armed and armoured for battle! Here the party made their first mistake, dithering as they discussed whether to withdraw or fight, and if fight, whether here, or on the trail. Their hesitation gave their foes time to finish donning weapons and armor, before forming rank and charging down the muddy shore of the lake towards the waiting party.
Then the PCs arguably made their second mistake, electing to remain in the clearing to fight the Hobgoblins, instead of withdrawing to the trail, which would have limited the Hobgoblins’ ability to take advantage of their superior numbers.
The archers of the party began loosing shots as the Hobgoblins closed the distance, but the initial volley went completely wide due to the extreme range. The second volley was equally ineffective, with the Hobgoblins now near to closing the gap. Thinking quickly, Kane sent his three hunting dogs charging towards their foes. While he would be unable to effectively control them, they would present no risk to the party, and had the desired effect of stalling the Hobgoblins’ charge. Caught in the open, they again weathered a volley of missile fire from the party without ill effect, before turning to the annoying hunting dogs, and skewering them on their spears. Realising they would need to engage the creatures in mêlée, party members began charging forward, with Endithas Wolfram leading the way. Several Hobgoblins hurled their spears at the charging party members, but only Endithas was injured, a mere scrape across his thigh.
A swirling and chaotic fight began, with the Hobgoblins surrounding the PCs and their Henchmen. Luka was able to drop one the creatures, but was then impaled on a pair of spears. Endithas cut down several of the things, including their champion (splitting him head to toe), but was grievously injured in turn, barely staying on his feet. Erasmus fell next, a spear butt catching him beneath the back of his helm. He crumpled in a heap, unable to move his limbs. Waevryn was able to injure several of her foes before she, too, was cut down, with Caasi being felled atop her.
Just as all hope seemed lost, and a TPK seemed imminent (Kalasandr’s player belatedly observed that they were, in fact, outnumbered by foes that had, on average, more hit points and better Attack Throws), Kane’s deadeye archery finally began to take its toll. Able to shoot into mêlée, and dropping a pair of Hobgoblins several rounds in a row, Kane turned the tide of the battle. Amazingly, the Hobgoblins’ morale held to the bitter end, with Kane using his net to capture the last remaining runt of a Hobgoblin before it could flee.
Those characters left standing moved to render aid to their fallen comrades, with Caasi being the priority due to her ability to heal others. A Potion of Healing was poured down her throat and her wounds were bound. As she came to, it became clear that a Hobgoblin spear had pierced her left forearm, slicing the tendons and rendering it useless; at least this time it wasn’t a flipper! She would need time to recuperate. Endithas, Kane, and Kalasandr quickly set about helping the others. Unfortunately, none fared as well as she had…
Luka’s body had been pierced by so many spears that there was no hope for him. Erasmus had had his spine broken at the neck, and he was unable to move his limbs. Waevryn had suffered so many wounds to her legs that she would never walk the same again. Doing what they could, everyone (except poor Luka and the paralyzed Erasmus) was helped to their feet, and the party then moved down to the far end of the clearing to search the monsters’ encampment. They found a paltry sum of gold, a number of wineskins filled with cheap wine, broken weapons and armor, and several roasted pigs. Could these have come from the Sergeyev farm?
The sun was getting low in the sky, so the party decided they would make a quick detour to see the strange old women whose cottage was nearby, then head back to the fort. On the way out of the clearing, Endithas retrieved the strange, black scimitar from the body of the Hobgoblin leader.
Unfortunately, neither of the sisters, Rosabella and Rosalinda, could aid those suffering Mortal Wounds beyond basic healing. They instead invited the party to spend the night in their cottage, as the sun was now setting. Everyone agreed, and they were led inside the little cottage, only to discover a vastly different space on the inside: a huge entry hall led to a spiral staircase up to a second floor that didn’t appear to exist from the outside, down a long hall much bigger than the cottage itself, off of which were a number of sumptuously appointed bedrooms. Everywhere they looked in the house, beautiful knick-knacks, curios, and artwork lined shelves, hung from walls, and sat in corners. The total value of these things was no doubt enormous!
The PCs and their Henchmen were each assigned one of the luxurious bedrooms, and spent the night in comfort far better than the common sleeping room at the Lion’s Den. On the morning of the 27th, they said their goodbyes and made their way back to the southern clearing on the river, crossing back to the fort. Several jokes were made about pushing the now-paralyzed Erasmus overboard (party members who don’t survive don’t take a share of XP), but the horrified stares of Boris and their other Henchmen quickly ended such talk, and the rest of the trip was made in awkward silence.