No problem. Nice to know somebody is reading it!
Belgarath's letter to his Master
Session 16, Player recap
I seek your advice and wisdom. Recent events have shaken my confidence somewhat, and I need your assurance that I am following your teachings correctly.
I have been traveling and adventuring with the same group of people you met when I last visited. They are a capable bunch, Cassi the cleric, Kalasandr the thief, Endithas Wolfram the fighter, and Kane the elven ranger, as well as a few others. A few weeks ago, I had agreed to help deliver a calf in Helix. The calf had turned in the mother and it was having difficulty, the cord caught up around its neck. I laboured along side the cow for 22 hours before finally delivering a healthy calf. I was paid well for the work and managed to barter up the price so I could afford the best room at the inn with a hot bath.
I was headed to bed in the wee hours of the morning when Kalasandr and Endithas asked me to go explore the Barrowmaze near Helix. As perhaps my first mistake, I agreed to go, even though I was delirious from lack of sleep. After traveling a few hours, we arrived at a large burial mound rising out of the marsh and grassland, inside of which we found a tripod with an old rope descending into a dark pit.
We went down and discovered an ancient underground dungeon. As we agreed on a marching order I recalled you sage advice, “Belgarath, always stay in the middle of your group. This protects you from attacks, both front and rear.”
I took up a position behind my trusty follower Mearl, Endithas, and our loyal war dogs: Argus the 2nd and Cerberus. Behind me followed Kalasandr and the other henchmen. I passed off my lantern to Mearl as you always advised, so as to have my hands free for spell casting, and to prevent me from being a target. As we explored this dangerous place I could feel the eyes of the place watching us, the intruders creeping into its hidden passageways. You always cautioned me about these places, “Keep quiet and move quickly; those who loiter and cause a ruckus are sure to die.”
After moving along a few corridors, we happened upon a large oak door. I waited for my experienced teammates to open the door, but, to my surprise, an argument started between them about this, the simplest of tasks.
Kalasandr: open the door and check the room for dangers. (moves to open door)
Endithas: Wait, who has a torch?
K: Mearl does. (moves to open door)
E: Wait, what weapons are we going to use?
K: It depends what’s in the room.
E: OK if there is something up close, we use melee weapons; if they're far away, we use ranged.
K: (nods and moves to open door)
E: Wait! Where are the henchmen going to stand?
K: They can stand against the wall.
E: OK...are we ready?
K: Wait! I need to check for traps...(checks for traps)...No traps. Alright? Ready?
E: No, no wait! We need to listen at the door.
K: Do you hear anything?
E: No, I don’t hear anything. Get Mearl to listen see if he hears anything...
Mearl: (listening at the door) I don’t hear anything.
E: OK OK. Let’s stand on either side of the door just in case someone…..
It was at this point that the logic of the situation broke down for me. If anyone was in the room, they would know about us by now because of all the noise we were making - possibly everyone in the whole dungeon would be aware of us now.
E: OK, you two stay here and guard the doorway. Attack anything that leaves the room.
K: But, what if you are in the way? We might hit you with our arrows.
E: Good point!
K: OK, you two on your knees at the front, archers standing behind, ready to shoot.
E: Wait, I am not kneeling down. It puts me off balance.
K: Right, good point.
E: OK, what if 3 people are on either side of the doorway, ready to attack, then I open the door with my left hand while quickly jerking my head back at a 45 degree angle so as not to get hit by any arrows?
K: OK. Everyone ready! ...wait who has crossbows?
Master, it was at this point that I just snapped, perhaps my second mistake of the adventure. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, maybe it was the urgency of your words ringing through my head, “Belgarath, keep quiet and move quickly; those who loiter and cause a ruckus are sure to die!” It seemed like a monster was to come upon us at any moment. My companions had fallen into some sort of lunacy, and I wondered if some foul magic was at play. I felt I had to do something bold, and to do it fast if any of us were to survive.
I stepped forward grasped the handle of the door and pushed it open. To my relief, before me was a mostly empty room. A few bones lay in the corner, but no danger. I decided to walk in to the safety of the room hoping, my companions would follow and clear the hallway. But, to my amazement, on my first step into the room I felt a click under my right foot and heard a huge grinding noise at my back. A huge stone slab slid into place behind me. I was in total darkness. Your excellent tutelage coming to mind, I called for the magic of light, and my finger tip glowed like a bright candle. In the light, my horror awaited me. From across the room I saw 7 gruesome skeletons shambling towards me. My bravery shrank to a knot of despair in my stomach, but somehow I managed to fall back to your training, “Always keep your wits about you, Belgarath, panic serves no one!” I knew there was only one thing that could save me.
I reached into my belt pouch and pulled out a scroll with the spell Web on it. I brought forth the magic and spread a sticky barrier between me and the skeletons. After a few minutes, the team worked together (amazingly) and lifted the stone barrier out of the way. The skeletons were dispatched, and we were free to continue.
I go over the encounter again and again, but I feel I acted in the best interests of the party. What matters most is that we all survived. I feel as though I need to return to you for more training. Perhaps you could teach me to use the web magic, as it was critical in saving my life.
Patience, most definitely a virtue!
An Evening with Endithas Wolfram
Session 16, Player recap
Oh, hello there friend! Have I a story for you, and one with a valuable lesson to be gleaned and not to be forgotten.
Together with my companions Belgarath and Kalasandr… look over yonder table, notice the two gentlemen, pale in complexion and shivering slightly? Yes, the three of us, along with our aides Erasmus, Mearl, Waevryn and Solla, we ventured into the barrows yesterday.
We began our day here in Helix. We hired a lad by the name of Morgar from Guildmaster Osen, meant to lead us back to the barrows where we had ventured once before. We had intended to spend a part of the day searching the Barrowmaze and then to head towards the Sukiskyn farmstead. You see, we had been tasked with transporting pure white steeds to the elven town of Rifflian. But you know the saying; even the best laid plans…
We got a bit lost on the journey to the barrowmoor, the second time this has happened. But our guide eventually delivered us to our destination.
Next to the entrance into the Barrowmaze were several other mounds, two of which still had their stone caps in place. However, at the furthest mound we noticed half of its capstone lying in the grass, a hole into darkness on the side of the hill while the sun shone warm on our faces. We crept forward to investigate.
Seeing a staircase leading down, and with lanterns in hand we followed the dingy stairs into a mausoleum of sorts. The room was 30 feet square and only 7 feet high! In the centre lay the remains of a stone sarcophagus with the top cast aside and smashed; the bones of its inhabitant were strewn about the room.
Kalasandr searched for hidden inlets and passageways, but found none. Whilst he did so, I strode up to the large cold coffin and peered inside. On first examination, there was nothing but more of the remains of its resident. That’s when I saw it: A slight shimmer from the light cast by the lantern; I spied a ring on the finger of the deceased! I gently took the gem, thanking its former owner for his generosity. What luck that this had not been noticed by those that had first entered! Passing the band around, none of us knew of its value, or if there was some powerful magics locked within.
We decided to move the sarcophagus to see if anything was below, but there was no more to be found. After replacing the casket, we headed back out to the light of day. We quickly looked at the other two capped mounds, but decided that they would be for another adventure. We headed back to the entrance of the Barrowmaze.
Morgar was tasked with staying behind to look after my donkey, Wilemina, as we descended into the dungeon. Kalasandr tied his lantern to the rope and lowered it down ahead of us. The place smelled damp and foul, and the echoes of quiet dripping was all that could be heard over our breathing. We peered closer at the frescoes on the walls; they showed a sullen and melancholy march towards a barrow mound, surely a funeral procession from long ago.
Now, my friend, we come to the crux of our story. We formed ranks, and cautiously made our way into the maze. Veering left into the unknown, we came to the end of a short corridor with a large oak door standing before us. We quietly discussed how to go about venturing within. We decided on an order, checked for signs of any type of machination designed on injuring those unwanted and uninvited. I quietly stood in the vanguard, sweat trickling down my brow and back as those better suited than I took the necessary precautions. More necessary than we had realized.
From the rear of our group came what sounded like shuffling feet and whispered grumblings. Belgarath, our sage and certainly most learned of our group, shouted ‘That’s it!’ and stormed through us all and towards the door, angrily grabbing the latch and moving inside! I could not believe his actions, and neither could my companions, as we all stood frozen in disbelief at his actions.
He turned to look at us, a smirk on his face as if to say that he knew better than we did, when from above we heard a grinding sound. We all looked up to the top of the doorway, only to see a slab of stone rushing towards the ground to trap our hasty mage within! All I saw before it slammed into place was Belgarath’s face, the smirk replaced by stark terror in his wide open eyes!
Kalasandr dove into his satchel, quickly finding what he searched for, a crowbar. He silently handed it to me. From within we heard a scream, and then words of magics being uttered in a shrill and quivering voice. Our friend on the other side was in peril! I dropped to my knees, trying desperately to wedge the tool beneath the large aperture, and with all the strength I could muster, I pulled upwards.
Solla, Waevryn and Mearl leapt under the raised stone slab to aide Belgarath, and to our relief, our friend was fine. He had used his magics to trap his assailants within an enormous web! Bound within were half-a-dozen chattering skeletons, terrifying to behold, their bones clicking together in an unholy cacophony. They were swiftly dispatched, silencing the predators eternally, and the door braced with a spear to allow safe passage out of the room.
Once out of the reach of the door, we stared incredulously at Belgarath. There may have been an unsavoury comment or two uttered in his direction. But as we cursed our companion’s hasty actions, we noticed an orange glow coming from down the corridor, erratically moving from side to side. I drew my bow, as did Mearl, and we fired simultaneously as the largest beetle I’ve ever seen came into view! Our arrows destroyed our attacker, killing it instantly before it could do harm. The noise must have lured it to us. Belgarath, humbled by his blunder, meekly moved forward and began to remove the glowing orbs attached to the creature’s body.
We returned to the corridor from which we had come, and decided to continue on through the dungeon. We came to yet another door, and Kalasandr looked at us, worry creasing his brow. Would another trap be sprung as we ventured within?
He opened the door, cautiously and quietly. From his crouching position he looked inward, and the upward. As he did, a huge spider lunged at him! But with lightening reflexes he was able to deflect the foul creature as Mearl brought his spear down, impaling it, innards spilling out onto the floor.
The danger avoided, we looked into the room, seeing the ceiling covered in thick webbing. Kalasandr took one of the glowing orbs and tossed it into the web. It held firm, and it illuminated the entire nest. Along the walls were intricate carvings of a procession of the dead walking towards the afterlife. It chilled me to look at the images of their blank expressions. Belgarath ran over to the dead spider, giggling and mumbling to himself, in search of glands containing venom, which apparently is quite potent in this eastern Karameikos variety. As he worked on the carcass, the skeleton of an adventurer was found in the room containing a small pouch with a number of electrum pieces within!
After taking the treasure we moved on, cautiously entered the neighbouring chamber, Kalasandr listening and searching for more hidden devices. The room was unnaturally cold, the temperature suddenly dropping. From within we could see a single skeleton lying on a stone slab in the centre of the room, the walls covered with frescoes that had been vandalized. A mist gathered, translucent and certainly not from the world of the living. An ephemeral figure appeared, arms outstretching towards us, a sword impaled through the ghostly creature’s chest!
Kalasandr’s scream could barely be heard over our own, I’m ashamed to say. He was the first to turn and bolt, the rest of us in tow! I dropped my sword, though I didn’t realize it till later, and lanterns and torches were all discarded by our group, such was our fear of the haunt!
We raced back to the start of the Barrowmaze, heaving breaths and recovering our wits. It was several minutes before we realized Belgarath was missing! We hurriedly began to light torches in order to search for our lost companion, but while doing so, Belgarath sprinted into the room clutching his chest, his face stark white from his second ordeal! We all agreed that we had had quite enough for one day. We ascended the godless depths, disheartened and defeated.
Morgar and Wilemina were nowhere to be found when we came to the entrance. An ill-fated end to an inauspicious day, to be sure. What can be learned from this, dear friend? There are a number of lessons, I am sure. But the one that seems to be clear above all others, patience is a virtue of virtues, do not forget this, friend!
I can't wait for the next one!
Up the river without a paddle...
Session 17, Highreach River
“We should buy some equipment, and open some of the un-looted barrows…” Belgarath licked his lips. The Mage always seemed a bit… unseemly… when he was discussing money.
“Yes, yes…” the Mage retorted, “Fine, fine! We can buy the equipment now, and then examine the tombs as soon as we get back with the horses.”
“Should we really be carting all that heavy gear around on the boat?” Caasi asked. The rest of the party turned to her in surprise, “I mean… we’re going to hire a boat, right? Since you lot took the time to go out to the Barrowmaze. Do we really want to haul equipment upriver and overland?”
Kalasandr cleared his throat, “Um… no. You know, that’s a really good point. We can buy the gear when we get back, now, can’t we?”
Caasi shrugged, “I’m just saying…”
Belgarath blushed, mumbling something under his breath about easy money, before petulantly declaring, “Oh, fine!” with visions of grave goods still dancing in his head.
22nd to 23rd Fyrmont, AC 999
Characters: Belgarath, Stikini (Belgarath’s Owl Familiar), Mearl (Belgarath’s Henchman), 3 Wardogs belonging to Belgarath, Caasi, Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman), Endithas Wolfram, Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr, Waevryn and Solla (Kalasandr’s Henchmen)
Mortal Wounds: Solla was punctured by arrows (twice!) and fell to the deck, slamming her head into the hull of the boat, suffering minor brain trauma (-2 on magical research and proficiency throws, -10% penalty on earned XP). Waevryn was felled by arrows and had her genitals destroyed by an arrow, a secret she would prefer to keep.
The party decided against stocking up on shovels, crowbars, hammers, and chisels in advance of an overland journey, and decided they could purchase such tools upon their return. Instead, they headed to the nearby pier on the Highreach River, looking for transport upstream, closer to Sukiskyn. They found an able boatman, one Kelanos, who was ferrying cargo upriver to several of the lumber camps along the edge of the Dymrak Forest. An argument broke out between Belgarath and Kelanos, as the man known by his companions as The Miser haggled until satisfied the fare would come no lower.
The group left and returned to the pier at noon to see Kelanos and his crew finish loading the boat with cargo. As the eight oarsmen took their places, the party clambered aboard with their gear. All of them removed their heavy armor, wary that any fall into the water would prove fatal while so encumbered…
I started the session discussing the hiring of a boat to shave time off their trip, and warned them that falling overboard in heavy armour meant death by drowning.
…the boat launched around the noon hour, with Kelanos assuring his passengers that they would reach the ferry site to disembark before late afternoon.
The first couple hours passed in peaceful conversation. Belgarath, dwelling on the many visions his Familiar has endured, questioned Kelanos sharply about slavers in the area. Kelanos had heard no such rumours, and scoffed at the notion; Guido’s Fort and its problems were far away, and of no concern to him.
As Belgarath turned to discuss the matter with his companions, the boat lurched violently, a grinding noise coming from below the water. The party members stumbled and fell, and Kelanos let out a shout, confused. The boat was in the middle of the river, and he knew these waters well enough to know that no rocks should bar their way.
The clatter and clack of arrows rang out, as a surprise volley from the southern shore landed amongst the passengers. Endithas let out a grunt as an arrow pierced his thigh. They were under attack, ambushed from the shore! As the party looked to the south and attempted to recover their footing, a dozen figures leapt from the bank, splashing into the water, and began swimming towards the boat. Boarders!
Another volley of arrows was loosed against them, as Belgarath moved towards the front of the boat to see what they had struck. Several of the group suffered minor wounds. Worse, the oarsmen had released their oars, and were cowering behind the gunwales, leaving the boat to begin slowly drifting downstream. Below the prow Belgarath spotted the iron links of a chain, strung across the river. They were not going to be able to pass without removing it.
Caasi and Fodora began to move along either side of the boat, frantically trying to get the rowers back to the oars. As they struggled towards the bow, one of the oarsmen leapt up and attempted to stab Caasi with a large knife drawn from his belt! At the last second Caasi spotted her assailant, knocking his blow aside with her arm. The man was then on her, slashing wildly with his blade as Caasi gave ground.
Belgarath turned to the southern shore, and with a few arcane words and gestures, cast Light on the eyes of one of the archers. The man dropped his bow and began clawing at his face, blinded. The remaining archers loosed another volley, and as the arrows rained down amongst them, Solla was felled by an arrow through the shoulder, just below her neck.
The remaining party members finally regained their footing and grabbed their weapons, returning fire. One of the approaching swimmers was struck, slipping below the water, and an archer on shore was killed while knocking an arrow.
Back on the boat, Caasi defended herself from her assailant, but was unable to land a blow in return. Fortunately, Belgarath loosed his hounds with the command to, “Attack!” and his vicious Wardogs charged the traitor, the larger of the two clamping its heavy jaws on his genitals. The man let out an ear-piercing shriek as the two mastiffs bore him to the deck and tore him to pieces.
Arrows continued to fall, and Fodora was struck down, and another archer and two more swimmers were killed by the party’s increasingly accurate return fire. Belgarath screamed instructions at the oarsmen, and Kelanos finally got them back to work, one side rowing forwards, the other backwards. Ever so slowly, the boat moved to present its stern to the archers.
Caasi rushed to tend to her servant, Fodora, while Kalasandr lowered his bow to check on Solla. Upon examination , it appeared Fodora was merely stunned, but Solla had taken an arrow to her helmet and was knocked out.
While the Henchmen were tended to, the rain of arrows paused as the first of the boarders finally began clambering over the rail. Belgarath dispatched the first of these with a Magic Missile, the man’s corpse tumbling back into the river. The others reached the deck and attacked with knives, only to be killed by the party’s counter attack. Moments after the dogs pulled down the last of them, the remainder of the swimmers reached the side of the boat and began boarding. More of the second group were already injured, struck glancing blows by arrows during their swim, and they, too, were quickly dispatched.
As Kalasandr slashed the last of the boarders, severing the fingers of his right hand, the man threw himself overboard to escape, and another volley of arrows fell upon them. Solla, already mortally wounded, was struck by another arrow and fell to the deck again, Caasi immediately rushing to her aid. Waevryn took an arrow to the groin, and waited screaming on the deck until Caasi could leave Solla to attend to her.
Kelanos, having regained command of the situation, had the oarsmen pulling hard for the opposite shore. The boat quickly moved beyond effective bowshot, and the ambushers on the south shore melted into the underbrush. The boat was brought into the shallows, and Kalasandr disembarked to deal with the chain, while Belgarath and Caasi began examining the bodies of the boarders, discovering scars on their wrists and ankles, and a now familiar tattoo of two manacles connected by a chain on their forearms. The slain men appeared to carry nothing else of value.
Once the chain was released and the wounded cared for, the boat pushed off and continued on its way for another hour-and-a-half to Misha’s Ferry. As they approached the small dock and began to unload their gear and an unconscious Solla, Kelanos called out for Misha herself, but received no reply.
“Have no fear, my friends…” Kelanos said, “She often goes out hunting with that mangy bear of hers, but she’ll doubtless return before nightfall. Make yourselves comfortable by the fire in her cabin; I can assure you she will not mind!” As he pushed the boat off from the dock, he turned to speak to the party, “Again, my sincere thanks for dealing with the bandits on the river. We would have been in serious trouble without you. Take care, and swift travels!” and with that, the oarsmen began pulling them on their way upstream.
Taking a few minutes to explore their surroundings, the party quickly determined that the door to the cabin was unlocked, and that there was, indeed, no one around. Belgarath had Stikini scout the area from high in the air, but no one and nothing could be seen, save the green, rolling expanse of the Dymrak Forest stretching away to the south. Satisfied that they were safe for the moment, the party began to settle in to await the arrival of Misha: the Mage managed to catch a rabbit for the soup pot, Endithas started a fire, and Kalasandr chopped wood to replace what they would doubtless burn through the night.
As he worked, the Thief heard a rustling in the undergrowth, and looked up in time to see an enormous bear, easily five times his size, wander out of the underbrush on the other side of the cottage clearing. The bear raised its head, sniffing the air, before catching site of the Thief and, with a grunt, charging! Kalasandr dropped his hatchet and ran for the cabin, barely outpacing the huge animal. He managed to bar the door just before its enormous bulk slammed into the portal, the entire cottage shivering with the impact.
After a moment’s consideration, Belgarath decided to try and appease the animal, offering rabbit carcass out the windows. The bear attempted to rip his arm off for his trouble, but during the process, Belgarath noticed that the bear appeared injured, with numerous small slashes on its back and the top of its head. The bear eventually calmed enough to give up, and wandered off into the woods. Rather unnerved, the party secured the cabin and bedded down for the night, the only disturbance of their slumber the howling of many wolves.
Come the morning, Misha still hadn’t returned, and the group began theorizing wildly, speculating that the bear and Misha were actually one in the same. Belgarath sent his owl Familiar, Stikini, to track the bear. The owl noted that the bear headed off to the north, but his sharp eyes picked out a profusion of other tracks in the vicinity of the cabin: the bear’s erratic tracks from at least two days before, flecked with blood, as if it had lashed about randomly. Even stranger, no tracks of any assailant were found. A similarly erratic set of tracks, perhaps those of Misha, were seen to exit the cabin, move to the dock, and disappear. Once again, no tracks of any attackers were found.
Giving up on the mystery for the moment, the party found the well-marked trail and set out for the hike to Sukiskyn. Strangely, they only decided to heal the most wounded of their number, Solla (who was unconscious), leaving several other party members badly hurt. They made good time on the broad, clear trail, and arrived in the vicinity of Sukisyn that evening in the gloaming. The smell of a fire made their stomachs rumble, but as they continued, the smell grew stronger. Presently, rising smoke could be seen above the trees, with the cries of combat reaching their ears. They began to hustle forward, but as they broke from the trees near a wooden bridge, Goblins adorned with wolf-pelts leapt from the underbrush in ambush, with Mearl and Endithas Wolfram in front, and Erasmus and Waevryn in the second rank being attacked.
The fight was short and vicious, with the already injured Endithas nearly being felled but for a draught of honeyed healing potion, the timely casting of Cure Light Wounds by Caasi, and a well-timed Magic Missile from Belgarath slaying a Goblin. As the party gathered their bearings after the fight, they could see they were at the foot of a wooden bridge across a small river, and that what must surely be the Sukiskyn homestead sat on the far side. The wooden palisade and barn of the homestead were the source of the smoke, with fire spreading up the near side of the building.
“COME WITH ME IF YOU WANT TO LIVE!” shouted a voice from across the river. A woman stood atop the wooden gatehouse on the far side of the river, waving frantically in the party’s direction. The party began to move, then broke into a run as they spotted a troupe of Goblins astride the backs of enormous wolves loping along the far bank. They would be cut off from the homestead’s gate!
It was a near thing with their wounded, but the party managed to make it through the gate ahead of the wolves, as a second person slammed and barred the gate behind them. A cacophony of howling and snarling erupted from outside the palisade, as the frustrated animals vented their anger at being denied fresh prey.
“This way!” shouted the party's saviours, running towards a central stone building. The barn to their left was burning, and fire was starting to spread to the adjoining palisade. The screams of horses could be heard off to the right, and as the party began to follow their new found friends, there was a “Crash!” as the gate on the far side of the courtyard was smashed in. Another groups of Goblins, these ones carrying crude, red-daubed weapons, pushed their way through.
“We’ll handle this…” Kalasandr deadpanned.
“We’ll take the long way…” proclaimed the woman, as she and her companion moved behind the party and around towards the stone building.
The Goblins snarled a challenge, brandishing their bloody-looking weapons over their heads, but were almost immediately cut down to a man (Goblin?) by missile fire. The threat dispatched, Caasi moved to the shattered gate to block the way, discovering a crude battering ram that had been used to smash through. Kalasandr and Endithas liberated one of the doors from the now burning barn, hauling it over, and the three of them placed the door to block the breach, bracing it with the Goblins’ own discarded ram. In the meantime, Belgarath pulled a bucket from the barn, climbed the gatehouse, tossing the bucket over the palisade near the burning side of the barn. He then cast Unseen Servant outside the palisade, and had his invisible minion begin hauling buckets of water from the river to dump them on the spreading fire. The Unseen Servant quickly doused the palisade, but the invisible minion could not throw water very high, and was unable to reach the worst of the flames on the barn itself.
Kalasandr bravely (foolishly?) dodged into the burning barn, seeking a ladder, which he found while losing his eyebrows. He returned to the gatehouse, and passed the ladder up to Belgarath, the Mage pushing it over the wall for his Unseen Servant. Now able to reach the flames on the barn, the Unseen Servant managed to considerably slow the spread of the fire. Nevertheless, it was clear it was only a matter of time before the barn would be consumed, and the magical bucket brigade was only delaying the inevitable.
With the most immediate threats contained, Endithas Wolfram, Erasmus, and Mearl headed behind the stone building to the far side of the compound. Here they found a stable, a smithy, stalls and paddocks; all were empty, the horses gone, and the gate at the back of the pens had been smashed. They also discovered the bodies of two humans, clearly the victims of Goblin violence, presumably killed defending the horses. Moving inside to the second floor of the stone smithy, Endithas spotted the red eyes of Goblins across the river, reflecting the light of the burning barn. He and the Henchmen took a few shots, but the darkness and cover of the forest left them uncertain as to whether or not they had hit anything.
With the burning of the barn slowed, the horses gone, and ominous chanting and drums in the woods, the party (save Belgarath, who had to remain close to his Unseen Servant) regrouped in the main stone building to decide what to do next…
And with that, we broke for the evening, with the time well past midnight. This was one of the more intense sessions we’ve had since this campaign began, and one of the first times the party’s total resources have really been tested, largely due to being unable to return to a friendly port in a storm (e.g. Guido’s Fort). This was also the first time the party ever ended a session unable to return to safety (i.e. trapped in Sukiskyn, surrounded by Goblins). The situation presents new complications, as I have thus far been unwilling to parachute characters in and out of adventures. I’m going to do my best to wait until the same players are available before picking up where this session left off.
Another big highlight of this session for me, personally, was finally (after 25 years!) being able to pull out B10: Night’s Dark Terror, place down the map, and use the included counters to give the party a clear sense of what was happening. I joked about immediately devaluing the module as I punched the counters, but the truth was that I was massively excited to finally use the thing in actual play. It didn’t disappoint!
Ask, and you shall receive!
Always an encouraging read with which to set down to my own session prep. Many thanks.
Whew! Back after a months-long hiatus due to work and personal stuff. We haven't played in that time, but the session reports posted here are way behind where we actually are, so there are many more to come before the hiatus. I'm looking forward to our first real session since I've resurfaced, coming on Friday, but in the meantime, I'll jut leave this here...
The Siege of Sukiskyn
Session 19, Sukiskyn homestead
The crackle of flames could be heard outside, as well as the intermittent hiss of water on a bonfire.
They were trapped.
“My apologies for the warmth of your welcome!” the man before them said with a wan smile. He was clearly trying to cheer the spirits of those around him. A beautiful, young blond girl sat on the floor behind him, weeping pitifully, a baby cradled in her arms. To the man’s left stood a handsome woman with long, black hair. She wore leather armour over a green dress, and hovered with a protective air at the man’s side. Beside her stood a young boy, wide-eyed, frightened, with more than a passing resemblance to their host – his son perhaps? On the far side of the room stooped an older man, plump and tired-looking, missing his left arm from some terrible wound long ago.
“This is it? Where’s everybody else?” Kalasandr asked.
The man gestured behind the party, “My son, Taras, and his wife, Alfana, you have already met, I think…”
“We found them battling Goblins across the bridge,” the woman, Alfana, began, “nearly cut off by Goblins riding massive wolves! We thought it best we let them in.”
“Thank you for that!” Caasi said, real warmth in her voice, “We were hard pressed.”
The big man, Pyotr, let out a great sigh, “And now, it would seem, your fates are tied to ours.”
“There are more of us…” Kalasandr interjected, “…a mage – he’s trying to put out the fire -” the pause was punctuated by the hissing sound of water poured onto open flame from outside, “Endithas is ’round the back with Erasmus and Mearl, looking for more Goblins.”
“There are many more to be found!” Taras said, spitting on the floor beside him, “Father, I count Wolf-skulls and Red-blades in the woods and around the palisade. Of the Vipers there is no sign, and I no longer hear the horses…” the young man seemed to be near tears at this.
Pyotr glowered, “The Vipers are a cowardly lot, but they seem to have stolen our horses. Novannes and Hakos tried to stop them…” the man stopped himself, visibly upset. The weeping of the girl on the floor grew louder, nearly hysterical, and the woman at Pyotr’s side moved to her, “Shh… come my dear, we must find our strength…”
Pyotr composed himself before continuing, “Her husband and father-in-law were at the stables when the Goblins broke in. I have sent my mother and daughter to the tower,” Pyotr pointed to the north-east, “where there are no doors on the first floor, for defense. We would fall back there if the worst occurs.”
Everyone jumped as a heavy pounding sounded on the wooden door the party had entered through, “It’s a touch warm out here, if you don’t mind!” came Endithas’ rough bellow. The door was opened, and Endithas, Belgarath, and their Henchmen piled through.
“The barn is lost,” the Mage stated flatly, “Though it will take some time to finish burning.” It was another hammer-blow to the morale of the homesteaders.
“Come, then!” Endithas brought his hands together abruptly, the sound filling the space, “Let us prepare our defenses. We will make certain these Goblins pay for their efforts with blood,” the big man’s hard-edged smile held no humour, “theirs!”
The night of the 23rd to the 24th of Fyrmont, AC 999
Characters: Belgarath, Mearl (Belgarath’s Henchman), 2 War Dogs belonging to Belgarath, Caasi, Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman), Endithas Wolfram, Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr, Waevryn and Solla (Kalasandr’s Henchmen)
Mortal Wounds: Belgarath lost an eye to a giant vampire bat, and Waevryn was permanently blinded by a Goblin sling stone
Deaths: Poor, poor Matvey and Kuzma
The party found themselves trapped in the Sukiskyn homestead with it’s inhabitants. Around them, Goblin war drums and chanting filled the woods, and the glow of red eyes could occasionally be seen amongst the undergrowth. The party surveyed the homestead, and began to plan for its defense. The main building, housing the kitchen and stores, and a nearby tower were built of stone, connected by the main hall, which was constructed of wood. The tower had no entrances on the first floor, and it was here that Pyotr had planned to retreat if things went badly. None of the main buildings had windows on the ground floor, and the doors were solid, and made of oak.
A plan was quickly concocted, with crude furniture barricades being thrown against the doors, and every able archer moving to the second floor. Windows on the second floor, overlooking the breached courtyard and burning barn, would allow a crossfire, turning the area into a deathtrap. Those who could not fight were moved into the tower, with Belgarath and his owl Familiar, Stikini, assuming lookout on the battlements at the top.
The party didn’t have to wait long, as shortly after they settled into their positions the gate previously blocked with a barn door and battering ram was again smashed in, a small war-party of Red-blade Goblins whooping and hollering as they loped into the courtyard. They were met with swift death from above, Endithas killing three of them, and Fodora another, before the last realised he had forgotten something in the woods, and quickly headed off to retrieve it.
The drums and chanting began again, filling the woods surrounding the homestead. Over the next few hours, the sounds would intermittently stop, the interminable silence much worse. Tension wore at the nerves of the besieged. Kalasandr took the opportunity to climb out a second-floor window (I didn’t bother with a roll, as it was child’s play for the thief), run across to the broken gate at the back of the horse pens, and lay his recently acquired caltrops. This done, Kalasandr slipped back inside the way he had come.
The fire had mostly burnt itself out, the remains of the barn and gatehouse smouldering fitfully, when the drums and chanting again fell silent. Once again, the party moved to the second-floor windows, eyes straining in the moonlight, looking for any sign of attackers. It was then that a great howling and snarling erupted across the bridge the party had used to enter the compound. Two enormous wolves, large Goblins clutching to their backs, charged across the bridge, with nearly a dozen Goblins on foot racing behind. At the same time, furtive figures could be seen scurrying around the remains of the barn from the north.
(In truth, the barn ruins were probably still far too hot for this, particularly considering how long Belgarath managed to delay them burning down with his Unseen Servant, but I didn’t give this enough thought at the time, and none of my players, not even the one with training as a volunteer smoke-sniffer, noticed.)
The Goblins’ plan quickly became clear, as the two wolf-mounted champions charged the door to the main stone building, and lay into it with two-handed axes! The party and the locals moved to the windows to stop the assault with missile fire, but as they did so, a hail of sling stones was loosed from the score of Goblins skulking in the ruins of the barn. The cover of the homestead's windows was enough, however, and none of them were injured, but the risk of being exposed enough to fire on the group assaulting the door meant risking the slings-stones of their kin. Worse, the axe-wielding Goblin champions took cover behind their wolves as they worked, the snarling beasts shrugging off arrows that would have doubtless felled their masters.
“Oil, get the oil!” Mearl shouted above the din. (Belgarath’s player was mostly playing his Henchman, with his primary character out of spells, a terrible shot at -2 to Attack Throws for 5 Dexterity, and stuck on the roof of the tower. The party had discussed heating oil in a pot in the kitchen in the main stone building, but for some inexplicable reason had thought it best to wait until under attack to heat it!) Caasi raced down to the kitchen, her sling unusable at the available openings (I ruled a sling couldn’t be used at the arrowslits in the tower). She ran into the kitchen, where several of the weaker members of the Sukiskyn household clustered near the hearth, but no oil was yet cooking! There was a heavy splintering sound as part of the door gave way, the huge maw of a wolf briefly trying to force its way through before withdrawing. The axe fell again…
“Out! Out! Everyone, upstairs!” Caasi shouted above the din, ushering them through to the great hall and up to the second floor. She then set about barricading the stairs, hoping to slow down whoever – or whatever – came through the door when it gave way.
The party and their allies on the second floor tried, at risk to themselves, to keep the Goblins from getting in. Under the pelting fire of sling stones, Pyotr was struck several times, stoically ignoring his injuries to return fire. Waevryn was also struck, and took a sling stone to face, collapsing in a froth of blood from her nose. Another volley of arrows from the defenders felled a Goblin Champion, and one of the Dire Wolves. Though injured, the other large Goblin continued hacking, the door and barricade gradually collapsing under the blows of his axe.
With a crash, the door gave way, and one of the Dire Wolves leapt into the building, snarling! The look of triumph on the Goblin Champion’s face was short lived, however, as Erasmus planted an arrow between his shoulder blades, killing him. At the same time, Mearl threw a flask of military oil in front of the door, the flames killing several Goblins and blocking the entrance. The remaining Goblins, seeing their champions and mighty wolves killed, wavered and broke. Those skulking in the burnt out barn withdrew north towards the woods, and those intending to assault the building split and ran in two different directions. The larger group milled about in the courtyard too long, and were cut down by arrow fire. A smaller group of three ran out of sight around the stone building, headed out through the horse pens. Much to their surprise, they ran full tilt over Kalasandr’s caltrops, and were all left injured and hobbling. They still managed to make their way (slowly!) back ’round the building, and slipped out across the bridge, unnoticed.
Screams and cries rang out in the great hall as the massive wolf bounded across the room and began clambering over the makeshift barricade Caasi had set on the stairs. As the huge wolf came over the barricade, it let out a rumbling growl that elicited more screams from Pyotr’s family. Caasi stepped forward, a look of grim determination on her face, raised her ebon mace aloft, and shouted, “You…SHALL NOT…PASS!” bringing her mace down on the beast’s muzzle as it prepared to leap, crushing it’s skull. The massive wolf fell dead at her feet.
(After a depressingly long streak of poor rolls that wouldn’t hit the broad side of a burning barn, Caasi’s player finally turned in a solid Attack Throw and maximum damage, killing the injured wolf. The table erupted in cheers! Unfortunately, this did nothing for her Initiative Rolls for the rest of the night, and she still averaged about a 1.1 on a D6, perpetually going last each round.)
An eerie quiet descended on the household, broken only as the drumming and chanting in the woods resumed. Kalasandr and Caasi tended to Waevryn, who was very badly injured: she had been blinded by the sling stone that had struck her down, and was badly concussed. She would need several weeks of bed rest before she would be up and moving, but even that would not restore her sight.
Endithas and Erasmus checked the bodies of the Goblins, finding a few coins, and then proceeded to pile their corpses in the doorway to bar the shattered portal. A fire was started in the kitchen, tended to by the one-eyed manservant, Stelios, and oil heated in a cauldron. With the realisation that the ground floor likely could not be held against another, more determined assault, the remaining vulnerable members of the group were sent to the top of the tower with Belgarath.
Then the waiting began again, the incessant drumming and chanting wearing on the defenders once more. All seemed calm until midnight approached, when the chanting and drumming again fell silent. As the party tensed, the silence was abruptly broken by screaming. Several members of the group moved to the east-facing windows. Before them in the eastern clearing they could see the Goblins dragging a prisoner, what appeared to be a woman in a yellow dress, along the edge of the treeline.
“No!” shouted Darya, pushing past the others, “Katarina has such a dress… if the Goblins have already attacked the Cherkass homestead…”
“We must not throw off caution…” Pyotr began, laying his hand on her shoulder, but his wife shook it off and turned to the party, nearly sobbing, “PLEASE! You cannot leave her in the hands of those creatures! I BEG YOU!”
Caasi was moved by the woman’s pleas, and with Fodora and Mearl in tow, she moved out to attempt to rescue the woman. As the trio headed across the field, the Goblins holding the woman drew their blades, as if threatening the woman’s demise. With the helpless woman so close and yet so far, Mearl’s temper snapped – he raised his arbalest to his shoulder, and in spite of meagre moonlight, underbrush, and the range, fired a bolt at one of the two despicable Goblins restraining the woman. He had already jammed his foot in the stirrup of the arbalest to recock the bow when the first bolt struck home, piercing the Goblin’s left eye and slaying him instantly! A second bolt followed, and the other Goblin stood, mouth agape, as it arced through air to embed itself in his throat. With confused gurgle, he released the figure in the yellow dress, and collapsed.
(Mearl nailed it, with an Attack Throw of 20, followed by maximum damage! Realising he’d dropped the first Goblin, he rolled to Cleave, following up with an Attack Throw of 17, and nearly maximum damage again! Belgarath’s player, who tends to complain about his Mage a lot, lamented the fact that his main Character could “never do something so useful.” I had to point out that two Magic Missiles would’ve likely done the same without even requiring an Attack Throw, and from the safety of the building. The grass is always greener...)
The trio began shouting as they hustled forward, urging Katarina to come with them. Alas, they were brought up short as “Katarina” looked up from the dead Goblins to stare at them. The leering face of a Hobgoblin looked out at them from beneath a crude wig. Somewhere off to the left, they could still hear what almost sounded like a woman’s screams…
Goblins ran forward from the trees, and the party came under fire from Goblin slingers in the woods. In frustration, Mearl and Fodora fired shots as they began to run, and at least had the satisfaction of seeing the Hobgoblin in the yellow dress fall, a bolt and an arrow in his back. As they began to run in earnest, trying to outdistance the rain of sling stones, arrows flew over their heads back towards the Goblins, Endithas slaying enough of them to discourage pursuit. The three made it back inside, largely unscathed, and the doors were barricaded anew.The defenders grew quiet, realising how easily they’d been duped, and waited for whatever new scheme the Goblins would attempt to end the siege.
A few hours had passed, with the time well past midnight, when the chanting and drumming suddenly reached a fever pitch, and fell silent once more. Again, the party strained at the windows, watching for which direction an attack might come…
(Sadly, Belgarath flubbed his Surprise Roll.)
…but that direction was most unexpected! The beat of leathery wings was their only warning, as five dark shapes swung down before the full moon and fell upon the helpless and vulnerable at the top of the tower. Belgarath was slashed by a great bat’s fangs, and fell to floor, limp and unmoving. (Giant vampire bats, and poor Belgarath failed his Save versus Paralysis.) The vile thing draped its leathery wings across the Mage and began to feed! Pyotr’s mother and son also fell beneath these nightmares given form, but weeping Masha, who had already lost both her husband and father to the Goblins, managed to dodge the foul creatures, and ran screaming down the tower stairs, babe in arms, with two of the great bats at her heels.
Warned they were being attacked from a new direction by Marsha’s screams, Endithas Wolfram ran for the tower stairs. Kalasandr, on the opposite side of the homestead, instead decided on a more… direct route; the Thief once again slipped out a window and clambered onto the roof. Nimbly hopping to his feet, he ran across the roof, and began scaling the outside of the tower! Mearl, knowing his master was in danger, loosed the hounds, who bolted towards the tower faster than any could follow.
Masha managed to stay ahead of the bats, running down to the ground floor of the tower, passing Endithas on her way. The big man blocked the stairwell, arresting the bat’s pursuit, but he then faced the flying horrors and their paralyzing bite alone. As he tried to kill the flying things, Belgarath’s faithful hounds raced past, slipping by on the narrow stair. Fortunately, Endithas’ sturdy armour (and a successful Saving Throw) saw him through (after many rounds of missing). With the bats slain, Endithas charged up the stairs with several other party members close behind.
They burst through the door to the battlements to be greeted by a grisly scene: the bloodsucking fiends had drained the very lifeblood from Kuzma and Matvey, leaving them pale and lifeless. One of them, formerly draped across Belgarath, had been torn apart by the War Dogs. The remaining creatures took to wing as the party charged them, escaping over the battlements towards the main building, and above the defenseless Thief still climbing the side of the tower (“You dick!” were the Player’s exact words to me, but the bats weren’t headed for him…).
The bats flew down and squirmed through one of the second floor open windows, paralysing another party member before they were finally destroyed by Pyotr and Mearl. The party had once again defended the homestead, but at great cost. The bodies of Kuzma and Matvey were moved with the remainder of the non-combatants to the ground floor of the tower. The party neglected to tell victims' family about it, as they were still needed in defense of the homestead. The party could ill afford them being rendered useless by grief.
Another long, slow period of ceaseless drumming and chanting followed. However, as the sky first began to brighten in the east, the sound changed. Much of the drumming and chanting fell away, as if many of the Goblins had given it up. What remained changed entirely, with no drumming, and only a droning, slow chant coming across the eastern clearing. The party braced to hold until dawn. Then shouts went up from both sides of the homestead: from the west, across the bridge and through the burnt out gatehouse, came three of the largest Goblins the party had yet seen. They charged the door and the mound of bodies blocking the way. Far more terrifying, from the semi-dark to the east, a great host of Goblins, perhaps forty or more, boiled forth bearing crude siege ladders…
Endithas, Erasmus, Mearl, and Pyotr fired volley after volley into the great Goblins, as the all others moved to defend the eastern windows. The Goblin leaders were soon slain by the withering hail of missiles, but not before the horde on the other side of th building had thrown up ladders and begun to scale the wall!
Grim determination gripped the party, and they threw all they had at the besieging Red-blades: flaming military oil, arrows, bolts, and boiling cooking oil from the kitchen hearth. Still the Goblins came on, hacking and slashing as they tried to force their way through the windows. With a mighty heave of his rippling muscles, Endithas threw over one of the siege ladders (not having Domains at War handy, I decided a standard Open Doors Throw would do, and Endithas Wolfram gets a +8 due to his 17 Strength!), its occupants falling on their fellows below and crushing them. Caasi cooked dozens more with flaming oil, torching another ladder in the process.
With the assault faltering, the party began loosing missiles into the Goblins below, and their Morale finally broke, the pitiful remains of the Red-blades finally scattering into the pre-dawn light.
True silence descended on Sukiskyn at last! No chanting, no drums, and no cries of battle. As the sun rose, the party surveyed the carnage around the homestead; they were victorious!
Bodies were looted, and costs tallied, as Pyotr and Darya were informed of their great tragedy. The party had defended the homestead, but what had brought on the assault? And why had at least three tribes of Goblins united in such an endeavour?
What an unbelievably epic session! I previously joked about devaluing my module to run this, but even if I’d had to burn it to play it would have been worth it. Everybody had an awesome time (I think), and we went over our usual midnight stop time. Still, I can’t imagine fitting that many crazy-huge battles into a single 5-hour session of 3.x or 4E era D&D. Long live ACKS!
I’ve also realised that, as much as I like writing these session reports, I can’t keep writing epics like this! They just take way too much time (and who knows whether or not anyone reads them), even more so because I have to write them in tiny snippets due to my lack of available time to begin with. Let’s see if I can trim the next one down considerably…
5,125 views thus far... I guess somebody reads these, eh?
Meanwhile, this last adventure was beyond epic. Goblins are generally pretty wussy, even en masse, but you managed to make them into a terrifying, blood-thirsty war-band; superb use of timing, creatures, and dramatic narration! Amazing session, and awesome job describing it!
5,124 bots...and you. Thanks, though!
Honestly, the module is the main reason for the session being so epic. It's a really great module (B10: Night's Dark Terror for Basic D&D)! It does have its problems, particularly with a couple of ridiculous choke points that verge on railroading (I'm looking at you, Loshad), but it sets up a lot of interesting situations, then lets the players loose to try and solve them. It makes an excellent low-level sandbox for ACKS.
...a little bit of the ol' in-and-out...
Session 18, the Moor
Anyone paying attention (i.e., no one) may notice that this is Session 18, but the previous session was Session 19. This one appears out of sequence because it involved completely different characters on an unrelated foray, and I wanted to keep the events at Sukiskyn together. In the actual event, we couldn't get close to the same crew together two sessions in a row (i.e., Session 17 and the next one), so a different mix of characters did something unrelated, while what I'll call the "main party" remained trapped in Sukiskyn under siege by goblins. Without further ado...
“Well, if you’d like to mount an expedition, I’d suggest we buy some more gear and hire some muscle!” the gnome seemed unreasonably upbeat. There was a certain mischievous gleam that never seemed to leave his eye. It made Vandelay wary.
“While I agree, I am… somewhat short of funds, at the moment, if you see what I mean…” truer words were rarely spoken: Vandelay was flat broke. He had spent his money outfitting for the trip to the The Hill, and that expedition had been a bit of a disaster. He had then found the Barrowmaze, but that trip had only turned up a handful of silver. At least he had survived to be penniless.
“Ah! A bit short on jink, eh?” Tover asked. Vandelay cocked an eyebrow.
“You know…a little down-and-out. Feeling a bit pinched. Skint. Impoverished. Hard up. Insolven-”
“I am well aware of what you mean!” Vandelay interrupted, “I believe I just told you the same…” the elf let out an exasperated sigh, “We will need to obtain further funds to outfit ourselves properly…” Vandelay let the ghost of a smile cross his lips, “…although, I have an idea about that…”
18th to 23rd of Fyrmont, AC 999
Characters: Tover, and Vandelay. Milo (Tover’s Henchman) and Roland (Vandelay’s Henchman) were hired in Kelvin. Larford was hired as a torchbearer by Vandelay (from Guildmaster Osen in Helix) to guide them to the Barrowmaze. The pair of PCs were joined for a second expedition by Kane, Gareth Ironhand (Kane’s Henchman), and Kane’s menagerie of dogs (2 Hunting Dogs and 1 War Dog)
Mortal Wounds: none
Tover and Vandelay met in Kelvin, with the intention of heading to Helix, then on to the Moor in search of the Barrowmaze. Unfortunately, both were very short on money, and with no healing in the group, making some quick coin and obtaining hirelings was a priority.
Vandelay hit upon the idea of busking (after a fashion) for money in the main market inside Kelvin’s walls. His first night in the city, he gathered a few stragglers in the market around himself, then cast Summon Berserkers . Four ghostly elven shades appeared to do his bidding.
“And now, witness the blade-skill of elven warriors of old, in a fight… to the death!” Vandelay instructed two of the elven shades to do battle before the shocked crowd. The fight ended quickly, with one impaling the other on an elven greatsword, eliciting shocked gasps and shouts from the onlookers. The scene was repeated by the second two summoned shades, then the final two survivors, who slew each other simultaneously.
A small crowd had gathered by this time, and more than a few coins were thrown to Vandelay, and he retreated with the money before he attracted the attention of the watch. The next night saw a repeat performance, but this time with support from Tovar’s illusion-casting abilities. A much larger crowd gathered, as some word had spread about the performance. The pair handled it well, and managed to leave with even more money than the previous night, well before the watch became involved.
With the money that they made, plus the gold Tover already had, the pair were able to interview several potential Hirelings, and settled on employing Milo, a slow-speaking Traladaran with a saying for every occasion, and Roland, an overly clever Thyatian youth. After stocking up on provisions, the group hired on with the Silver Standard Merchant Caravan Company to raise a few more gold on the trek to Helix. After Billworth paid them for their brief service, they headed to the Decrepit Wizard’s Tower that is home to Mazzahs the Magnificent, hoping for further employment. Unfortunately, Mazzahs was mostly annoyed to see them, and while still willing to pay them for “items of an historical or arcane nature,” offered nothing further. The group retired to the Brazen Strumpet for the night.
The next morning, the party hired a guide and torchbearer named Larford from Guildmaster Osen. Vandelay questioned the youth extensively, trying to be sure the lad knew the way to the Barrowmaze, with hopes of avoiding the time lost on his previous foray to the place. Satisfied Larford knew where he was going, the group marched out of town as the day warmed under a full summer sun.
Sure enough, the party’s guide found his way to the Barrowmaze. The party quickly assessed a few of the barrow mounds near the ruined path, before settling on the closest. Strangely, the nearest tomb’s capstone was intact, but less than an hour’s work with hammer and chisel cracked the slab to the point where the remains could be pushed out of the way. A darkened tunnel led several feet down into the earth, and the stale smell of old mold wafted up from the barrow.
The party quickly entered and searched the tomb, looting the undisturbed bones of its two occupants, laid out on funerary slabs in the darkness. As the ancient pottery was being gathered, Tover, who had remained near the entrance, heard the sounds of someone approaching. The valuables were quickly handed to Larford for safekeeping (fortunately for the party, as this kept the delicate items from being destroyed in the ensuing melee, as Larford spent the battle cowering). Vandelay quickly moved to the entrance with his Henchman, Roland. As Vandelay stole a surreptitious glance beyond the entrance, he spotted four walking corpses, shuffling towards the entrance to the tomb.
“To me, Roland!” the elf shouted, before charging out past the undead, running back towards Helix. At first Tover thought he had been left to his doom, but it quickly became apparent that the canny elf had simply drawn the mindless dead away from the barrow, preventing them from trapping the weaker party members inside. Once he and Roland were a safe distance away, Vandelay had the pair turn and fire at the animated corpses. Getting the idea, Tover and Milo moved out of the barrow to a position where they could fire their own bows without risk of hitting their companions. The stratagem worked, and two of the corpses collapsed, broken by missile fire before getting anywhere near the PCs.
Vandelay and his Henchman then reversed the manoeuvre, running around the remaining shuffling corpses back to rejoin the party, pelting the undead with missiles before finishing them with blade and spear. A few minutes were spent trying to determine where the undead had come from, but the best the party could determine was they had approached from somewhere in the vicinity of large, rune-carved stone monolith, surmounted by a skull, on the other side of the Great Barrow.
With the sun getting low in the sky, and finding themselves potentially ahead of the odds, the party headed back to Helix, arriving well after dark. In their excitement, they decided to disturb Mazzahs, who was none-too-pleased to seem them, given the late hour. They still managed to convince the hedge-wizard to allow them into his tower, and the man looked over the bowls and amphorae they had discovered, offering to buy them for a favourable sum. Delighted at their newfound rush of cash, the group headed to the Brazen Strumpet for the night, only to discover their sometimes-companion Kane in the tavern’s common-room. After exchanging greetings, the elves agreed to join together for another expedition to the Barrowmaze the following day.
This friendly reunion was rudely interrupted but what appeared to be another group of adventurers, an unpleasant lot who the party had heard people call “The Norse Whisperers.” The group seemed to hail entirely from the Northern Reaches, and had an overly large chip on their shoulder. While a fight was avoided, it was clear the this (other) rag-tag band of treasure-hunters was better avoided.
The party headed out early the next morning as the Norse Whisperers slept off the previous night’s drink. Once again, the trip to the vicinity of the Barrowmaze was uneventful, with Larford faultlessly finding his way.
The Obelisk was examined in much more detail. The stone appeared ancient, with faded runes, worn almost beyond legibility, covering its four sides. Topping the pinnacle was a carved skull. None of the party members could decipher the runes. Kane spent some time searching the ground for tracks, but anything older than the animated corpses had become entirely indistinct.
Kane was stationed with his Henchman, Gareth, as well as his dogs, near the obelisk. The remainder of the party headed across the ruined path, past the Great Barrow, and on to the second nearby unopened barrow. As the noise of the attempts to smash it open rang out across the Moor, Kane waited and watched. Some minutes had passed when Kane spotted movement. This, however, came from the path back towards Helix! A scruffy group of cut-throats, desperate-looking men, were moving stealthily towards the rest of the party, clearly trying to keep a barrow between themselves and Kane’s companions.
Staying low, Kane waited until the bandits were about to attack – then arrows fell like rain, and before the men knew what had happened, two of their number lay in the dirt, breathing their last. The bandits turned and launched their own bolts in retaliation, but to no avail. The fight was short-lived, with Kane, Gareth, and his menagerie doing the bulk of the work. The bandits were defeated, stripped of their valuables, and sent on their way, naked.
Returning to the task at hand, the party finished chiselling their way into the tomb. The barrow consisted of a single small chamber, an untouched sarcophagus in the middle of the low room. The lid was forced open, and Kane and Gareth found themselves attacked by another animated corpse, desiccated and moldering. Gareth handily smashed the undead with his warhammer, then the group proceeded to loot the remains, finding a carved jade scarab on a golden chain, and a silver ring in the shape of a shield.
Emerging from the barrow, the group decided it was too late in the day for further tomb-robbing, and headed back to Helix…
...move em' on, head em' up, cut em' out, ride em' in...
Session 20, Sukiskyn, Dymrak Forest
“I am… looking for someone…” the voice was a raspy whisper.
“Hello there, friend. You were saying something?” Bello said, flashing a completely disarming smile.
The elf’s dour expression didn’t change. He glanced about the bar. These human establishments were all the same: Filthy. He looked back to the man who seemed to be the proprietor, “I am looking for a group of traveling companions: a mage, an older heavy-set warrior, a cleric of the Karameikan Church, and a skinny man dressed in black…”
Bollo’s smile broadened, “Ohhh, I see… not someONE, then?”
Kane’s eyes narrowed as he regarded the barkeep.
“What?” the man responded, feigning mock surprise, “You said you were looking for someONE, but that description was surely of a group of folks!” his eyes twinkled as he smiled.
“Have you… seen them?” asked the humourless elf in that same, rasping whisper.
“Hmmm…” the barkeep made a show of theatrically stroking his chin, “…now, such a group would be hard to miss, wouldn’t it?”
The elf just wouldn’t take the bait. He was more stiff than Valeron, if that could be believed.
“Oh, have it your way, then… two days ago. Headed upriver. Likely headed for Sukiskyn, if I heard right…” Bollo brought the wooden cup he’d been cleaning down with a clatter, and tossed the cloth he’d been using across his shoulder. When he looked back towards the elf, the room was empty… it was his turn to frown. The door stood silently ajar.
“Good riddance to the lot of ya’…” Bollo muttered to himself before turning back to the remainder of his cups.
24th to the 28th of Fyrmont, AC 999
Characters: Endithas Wolfram, Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kalasandr, Kane, Gareth Ironhand (Kane’s Henchman), 2 Hunting Dogs and 1 War Dog belonging to Kane
Mortal Wounds: None
Deaths: Erasmus and Gareth Ironhand
Kane made his way upriver, landing at Misha’s Ferry a couple days behind the rest of the party. The place was deserted, and the tracks in the vicinity were confused: a lone, human-sized figure running erratically out on to the dock and not returning; an enormous beast, perhaps a bear, weaving about the cabin and bleeding as if attacked, but with no other tracks nearby. More hopefully, there was a series of far more recent tracks about the site that appeared more regular, and come the morning he could see that a group very like his companions had taken the main trail to the south-east. Following the trail without incident, the Ranger arrived at Sukiskyn on the afternoon of the 24th.
The reunion with his companions was subdued, as the family of the homestead were still counting and burying their dead, and the party were busy binding wounds and burning foul-smelling mounds of Goblin corpses. With the horses missing, Pyotr’s son, Taras, wanted nothing more than to chase after the Goblin thieves. With Belgarath severely injured, Caasi volunteered to stay and keep an eye on him.
“Might be better if he’d kept his own eye…” Kalasandr deadpanned.
“Shouldn’t we stake the mage and cut off his head?” Kane asked without a trace of humour.
“We should probably wait to see if he turns…” Endithas replied.
“I’m right here!” the Mage responded angrily, sitting up in his bed, “I can hear you!” he finished, the effort sending him into a paroxysm of coughing.
Caasi pushed him back down, “Rest now. Recover your strength.”
Belgarath had been badly wounded and nearly killed a by a giant vampire bat. Pyotr's own mother and young son had not been so lucky, and both were slain by the flying horrors.
“Why is it so bright in here? Can’t you cover that window?” the Mage whined as he stopped coughing, bringing his hand up to cover his remaining eye. The others exchanged worried looks before heading out into the courtyard. More ill luck had befallen the party that day, as it became clear that the sling bullet that had struck Waevryn’s head had robbed her of her vision. Her injuries necessitated bed rest, yet even so it wasn’t clear if her sight would ever return. Worse still for Kalasandr, his other Henchman, Solla, had decided that the kind of massacre The Siege of Sukiskyn had been was not what she had signed up for, and robbing abandoned tombs would provide a far more palatable ratio of risk to reward. She left shortly after Kane’s arrival.
In spite of their losses, the decision was made to leave with Taras the following morning in pursuit of the stolen horses. Pyotr had promised to reward them handsomely for the recovery of the steeds, with 20gp for each horse returned, and his son apparently knew the local terrain as well as anyone. The remaining able-bodied party members present would accompany him: Endithas, Kalasandr, and Kane, along with their remaining Henchmen. All would ride horses borrowed from Pyotr, including a pony for Gareth.
Kane spent time the next morning examining the tracks around the homestead, noting that there had been a small handful of Goblins (or their kin) present that had stayed apart from the main attack. Near these Kane found a small silver pendant on a chain in the shape of a ruined tower. The elf recognised the symbol as belonging to the hated Yellow-Fang Goblins. Yet none had been seen or recognized during the attack on Sukiskyn. As the group followed the tracks away from the homestead it was clear that the Vipers had headed this way with horses in tow. However, after following the trail of the horses for a mile or two, a new set of tracks approached and merged with those of the Vipers. These new traces had been left by Goblins, too, but were accompanied by a number of enormous wolf tracks. It appeared the Wolfskulls were pursuing their horse-stealing kin. Perhaps the Vipers leaving with the horses hadn’t been part of the Goblins’ plan after all?
The party followed the trail to the east until it left the Dymrak, skirting the edge of the forest along the Moor. The rolling grassland of the Moor stretched away to the east, but the goblin horse-thieves stayed close to the eaves of the forest, heading south-east. The later signs of Wolfskulls stayed with them, and Kane said he was certain they had gained on the Vipers. Near midday, all the tracks abruptly turned south towards the treeline, and their pace quickened. Less than a mile distant in the direction of the tracks, circling on afternoon thermals, the group could make out the shape of carrion birds soaring in circles above the treetops. The party didn’t have far to go…
A few hundred yards beyond the edge of the trees the party came upon the site of a terrible battle. The corpses of Goblins, Horses, and a huge Wolf lay strewn about, the bodies thick with flies. The stink of blood and carrion hung heavy in the air. Most of the Goblin corpses had been stripped, each bearing a distinctive snake tattoo on its cheek, and one particularly tall and obese Goblin dangled from a nearby tree-branch, suspended by a rope around its fat ankles. As the party regarded the carnage, their attention was drawn by movement amongst the dead. A number of large, three-foot-long beetles, interrupted from their meal, scuttled across the dead towards the party, disturbing great clouds of flies as they came. In the same moment, Kane and Endithas spotted movement at the edge of the battle-site: a lone Goblin hopped down from a nearby tree, and attempted to flee! The bulk of the party dismounted to fend off the Beetles, as Endithas, the only skilled horseman in the party, kicked his steed into a gallop and raced after the fleeing Goblin…
The group managed to kill a pair of Beetles as the insects approached, but the remainder scuttled into melee. As the Beetles attacked, they let loose with an acrid-smelling spray of vapour from their jaws, but all managed to step back from the horrid mist. The remaining Beetles were quickly dispatched.
Endithas quickly closed the gap to the fleeing Goblin before it could reach the shelter of the heavier woods, and as the horseman drew alongside, he leapt from the saddle, tackling the fleeing Goblin to the ground. The big man soon wrestled the Goblin into submission, and once the rest of the party ran over, the prisoner was bound with ropes and questioned. Fortunately, Gareth Ironhand, the dwarf, was able to put aside his racial enmity for the Goblin, and questioned the prisoner about the events that had transpired. After a frustrating few minutes, it became clear the Goblin was a female, and a member of the Viper clan. The Wolfskulls had caught and attacked the Vipers and stolen horses. No clear picture of what had happened at the battle site emerged, as the prisoner seemed to assert that the Vipers had won the battle! This in spite of the fact that the Viper chieftain was hanging in the clearing from a gibbet.
As it became clear there was little more of use the Goblin could say, a debate ensued as to what to do with the prisoner. Taras quickly tired of the argument, and, enraged by the senseless slaughter of so many of his clan’s horses, he pushed forward and drove his blade through the Goblin’s gullet. Without a word, the party returned to their horses and remounted, determined to follow the tracks of the remaining two-dozen horses.
The track of the horses was easy to follow, and it soon merged with a clear trail that wound its way through the fringe of the forest. A couple hours further on, the party came upon a wooden sign, tacked to a tree at the side of the path:
Miss L. Fyodorll — Equine Entrepreneur — Dealer in Fine Horses
The strange sign offered little to go on, other then the mention of horses. A short time later the trail broke into a sizable open clearing. Across the clearing from the trail sat three covered wagons, the weeds long since grown up around them. Adjacent to these was a large, crudely made paddock. As they rode towards the paddock, they could see thirty-odd horses, two-thirds of them beautiful white stallions. There was little doubt that these were the stolen horses from Sukiskyn!
From out of the wagons strode a tall elven woman wearing a blue robe, “Greetings on this fine day! What brings you to my encampment?”
The party glanced amongst themselves before answering.
“Greetings…you are…Fyodorll, I presume?”
“Indeed I am.” The elven woman replied, her voice surprisingly deep, “You have come looking for horses, no doubt. I have many fine animals you might be interested in.”
Another glance passed between the party members. Finally, Endithas spoke, “Actually… we come seeking horses that were… stolen from us. By Goblins. We followed them here.”
“Ah, I see…” said the elven woman, “…so, you wish to buy them?”
Once again, awkward silence descended as the party looked at each. It was Kalasandr that finally spoke, “Oh, now this is SUCH crap. The horses are stolen, and we’re here for them. How about you just hand them over? Then we don’t have to take them from you!”
Fyodorll smiled slightly, “I… see. Well, I am, of course… reasonable. I did indeed buy the horses from Goblins most recently. I’ll tell you what…” she said, extending her arms in gesture of magnanimity, “I will sell the horses back to you for 50 gold each – the same as I paid the Goblins!”
“Oh, come on!” Kalasandr looked fit to spit, and turned to his companions, “This is such garbage. The horses are stolen, I say we take them, over her body, if need be…”
Endithas raised his hand, trying to calm things, “Now wait. Surely we can come to some kind of agreement? Miss Fyodorll…you said the Goblins just sold the horses to you? Perhaps you can point us in their direction? We can recover your money, you hold the horses for us, and when we return, we can pay you…”
“I am a businesswoman…” the elf replied, “I can make no promises to wait, but, as I said, I would be happy to sell them to you…”
“Come – ON!” shouted Kalasandr, leaning over the pommel of his saddle, “How about we put her in ground and take the horses, now?”
“No. We leave, get the money from the Vipers, come back, and buy the horses!” Endithas was emphatic.
Kalasandr muttered a tirade of insults under his breath, sneering in Fyodorll’s direction. A pair of men had come out of the wagons and were approaching. Fyodorll said something unintelligible, perhaps in elven, while gesturing strangely. Nothing happened.
“Bows at the ready…” came a call from behind them. The party turned their horses, expecting attack. Heavy undergrowth and trees were behind them. The call came again, “…feather them… now!”
“A trick, perhaps…” Kane said, laconically, “Some type of spell?”
Fyodorll was speaking unintelligibly again behind them. They turned in time to see her gesture as she finished speaking, “…quiesco somnium!” pointing at the party. Kalasandr, Erasmus, and Gareth collapsed from their saddles to the ground! Two more men leapt from the covered wagons, and the four of them rushed forward as the party reeled in shock.
After a split second of agonizing indecision, Endithas reached down from his horse to grab Kalasandr and haul him across his saddle. Kane, not nearly as comfortable on horseback, leapt from the saddle to carefully lift Gareth up from the ground and across his saddle, before turning his attention to the elvish sorceress who had enchanted them. Two of the men charged Endithas and Kane, the elf whistling for his hounds to attack. The other two men circled round the outside of the horses. As Erasmus and Gareth lay helpless, their heads were drawn back, and the bandits’ blades were brutally stabbed into the helpless Henchmen’s throats!
WIth a roar, Endithas forced his horse past his immediate attackers and pushed towards the edge of the clearing. Behind him, Kane’s hounds tore into the bandits, savaging the nearest. Taras spurred his horse forward, swinging his axe. Kane swung into the saddle, his teeth clenched in rage, Gareth a dead weight across the horse’s back, “Fall back!” the elf shouted.
Fyodorll drew her bow, and with practiced ease, loosed an arrow. A feathered shaft sprouted from Kane’s side, the Ranger crying out as he pushed his horse to edge of the clearing. The elf woman was fast, almost preternaturally so, and at least as lethal an archer as Kane. Taras continued his desperate battle amongst the bandits, locked in combat. The hounds brought down another bandit, as Kane, deadeye archer, dropped from his horse and fired at the elven Spellsword, and missed! Fyodorll loosed another arrow, striking Kane again, staggering the elf. He was near death!
Kalasandr jolted awake from the blow to his face and slipped down from the saddle. Endithas immediately turned and spurred his horse back towards Fyodorll, who turned and ran towards the wagons. Kane fired and dropped one of the bandits, then loosed a second arrow towards Fyodorll and striking her robe, but falling back from the armour underneath. Endithas closed the distance, but the Spellsword reached the wagon and leapt inside, leaving Endithas to pull his horse up short. The last of the bandits was felled as Taras was finally able to withdraw, grievously wounded. The party regrouped at the edge of the clearing.
“We can take what we came for. Let us be gone from here.” The Ranger’s pronouncement sounded hollow.
The party gathered the horses, including eight more beyond the twenty-four white stallions left from those the Vipers had stolen. With heavy hearts, they turned towards Sukiskyn, the return trip uneventful.
Upon their arrival at the homestead, the grim news was relayed, and it was decided it would be far too long before Kelvin could be reached to raise their fallen Henchmen. Unfortunately, more bad news had arrived at Sukiskyn: refugees had arrived from the Ilyakana lumber camp upstream. The camp had been attacked by Goblins the day after Sukiskyn, and destroyed. Worse still, Gregor, boss of the now destroyed lumber camp, explained that Pyotr’s brother, Stephan, had been present conducting business during the attack, and was taken captive by the Wolfskulls!
Things had gone from bad to much more complicated…
Maximum 5,123 and I suspect a lot fewer :-)
Off the Beaten Track
An Evening with Endithas Wolfram
Session 21, Sukiskyn, Dymrak Forest
Another player-written summary from Endithas Wolfram's player...
Dear friends, gather round! For I have, once again, a tale to impart! Though the hour is late, my flagon is full, as is my belly. Come, sit with Endithas, and listen.
Tonight’s tale begins as my companions and I returned to the Sukiskyn farmstead. We had been in search of the horses that had been stolen by goblins from the Viper clan and sold to Miss L. Fyodorll, an evil elven merchant. We were able to reclaim the horses, but at great cost; Erasmus and Gareth had fallen during the confrontation and Miss L. had escaped into the woods.
As we neared the farmstead, 24 of the reclaimed white steeds in tow, we could see a small congregation in the front enclosure. Pyotr, chief of the Sukiskyn clan, introduced us to four men, a look of apprehension on his face. These four had only just arrived from a lumber camp to the north east, a camp called Iliykana, and the tale they told was one of evil and destruction. We knew of this camp as Kalenos, the captain of a small transport vessel, was headed there to deliver a shipment of peat just a few days before.
The first man said his name was Gregor, and he was the lumber camp boss. He described a scene of butchery and bloodshed as the camp had been set upon by a goblin war party! Only he, Yuri the smith, and twins named Grisha and Griskal had escaped the attack. Pyotr asked about his brother, Stephan, who had travelled to Iliykana on business. Gregor looked at the ground and told Pyotr that Stephan had survived, but was now a captive of the goblin horde! I asked if Gregor knew what had befallen our friend Kalenos, but he had no answer, having barely made it out alive himself.
I turned to Pyotr, but before I could say anything, he motioned for us to come into the homestead and take refreshment and comfort. A feast would be had that evening in our honour, having returned his horses to the farmstead. There would be time for words later.
Kalasandr leapt back onto his horse. “Give my regards to the Miser and Caasi. I have something urgent that needs tending to. Take care, my friends, and stay safe until I return.” And with that, he sped off across the bridge and into the woods.
Pyotr took us into the hall. We had been there only a few days earlier, defending it and our lives from a goblin attack! Now we had chance to enjoy the well tended room. Pyotr asked if we would like to see the clan treasures, and we readily agreed. This was and honour he was bestowing us, his manners impeccable even under such duress and sadness. We viewed a stuffed eagle and wolf’s head; they looked almost alive as the workmanship was truly exceptional. There were also tapestries, one with the image of a stampede of horses, the other with a colourful geometric pattern. Both were wondrous to behold. Finally, there was a large hunting horn with elaborate carvings along the sides. Caasi, in awe of the oversized spike, said she would like to blow it, bringing a rather muted hush within the room.
The festivities that night did not disappoint! A wonderful feast was prepared. Caasi performed a sermon, though I must admit the parable was a little confusing with imagery of bees and dripping honey. Though I could not understand completely the message, it was most certainly an exciting sermon, and all that listened were roused and invigorated! I also provided some entertainment, and told a tale of wonder and adventure to the good people of Sukiskyn.
As the embers in the fire began to fade most of our hosts began to retire for the night, and so we went to talk to our companion, Belgarath. He had taken a grievous wound during the attack on Sukiskyn, losing his right eye, and was still recovering from the trauma. Though only able to speak in whispers, he talked of Caasi’s new healing methods, a wry smile on his lips. She had remained at Sukiskyn to help heal him.
Belgarath told us of two disturbing visions that his feathery affiliate, Stikini, had recently dreamt. The first vision depicted a scene of horror from the darkest reaches of the mind. Hordes of people, naked and chained to one another, were seen wailing and moaning as they shuffled down a darkened passage. The second vision was of a pair of unseen eyes, ever searching, over cries of bound prisoners. What could these strange admonitions mean? As he detailed the confusing visions that had been told to him, Pyotr entered the room.
Pyotr spoke in an even tone, though we knew that he was filled with grief. His wife and youngest son were dead, and now his brother had been imprisoned, or worse, by goblins. “I would like to offer you half of what we earn on the next shipment of horses,” he said, hoping to maintain our allegiance with gold. “You have succeeded in defending us from the swarm, as well as returning most of our horses, the livelihood of this small community. Accept my offer, I beg you, and return my brother to me.” I looked at Caasi, Kane and Belgarath and I knew that my companions felt as I did. Our fates were somehow tied to those at the Sukiskyn farmstead, and we would indeed grant them our aid. No bargains or talk of money was needed, all that mattered was to search for Stephan, and perhaps slay those responsible!
The next day we buried Erasmus and Gareth at the edge of the clearing. The babbling brook and shade from a large oak made for a good resting place. As Caasi said a few words for our fallen comrades, I felt that they would be at peace here. We bid them farewell and set out towards the lumber camp, Iliyakana. Gregor had said it was further up the Volaga to the north east, and might take a couple of days through the woods. As we mounted our horses Taras asked us if we should stop at any of the other homesteads along the Volaga, as he was joining us this day. We decided to head directly to Iliykana, and on the way back look in on the other outposts. Time was of the essence.
We rode through the Dymrak Forest, moving as quickly as we could. But night was soon to find us, and we needed to bed down and make camp as we were losing light. We camped in the thick woods, and soon gave in to sleep.
It seemed I had just closed my eyes when I was sharply awoken by rough hands. Though I could see little, I did notice that my companions were awake, and seemingly ready for battle. That’s when I heard it, a loud thumping sound coming towards us, as some unknown behemoth made its way through the woods in our direction! I grabbed the hilt of my sword and crouched, ready for whatever may be lurking in the woods beyond.
From just behind the trees a booming voice resonated, “What you DO!?!” We were all terrified, for only an enormous creature could make such a sound! I called back, as politely as I could, asking for the beast’s forgiveness and that we didn’t know we were trespassing. I quickly rummaged through our bags and pulled as many provisions and wine as I could find, asking if our gargantuan host was perhaps hungry? I stepped forward, offering it dinner. From behind the tree a hand the size of a man lay down in front of me. Such a creature I can only imagine to been ten times the height of a man, judging by the size of its hand! I placed the food, almost all that we had brought, into the giant’s palm. I heard munching sounds and grunts, followed by sloshing and gulping. I asked the creature how the food was, to which we received a hearty “GOOD!” The behemoth, satisfied, turned and left the area. We never really saw more than the outline of the monster, but we saw its footprints the next morning, and they were a meter long!
The next day we head towards the lumber camp, and around noon it came into view through a break in the trees. As we approached, the devastation became apparent. It was a massacre, with charred remains of both human and goblin littering the camp grounds. The palisades had been torn down and burned, and a very familiar ship had been sunk at the dock. It was Kalenos’ barge, and little of it remained afloat.
Kane, our trusty elven ranger, set about the business of examining the tracks within and around the camp. It was then, crouched and analyzing the ground, that he first heard it, someone muttering, deeper within the camp. He crept stealthily to investigate, and he soon saw a figure walking around, obviously agitated. Taras, having followed Kane towards the sounds, saw a man that he recognized; Kalenos, the captain of the river barge! Taras called out to him, but what happened next we could not have guessed!
Kalenos turned towards Taras, his face red and contorted with rage and madness, before running in the opposite direction and out of sight. I was still on my horse and pursued, finding our friend Kalenos hacking away at a tree a short distance away. As I approached, he bent down and picked up a bow, firing an arrow at me! His aim was true, but even though I was injured I continued in pursuit, yelling at our friend that he was not in danger and we were here to help. I leapt off my horse as I neared, but he was intent on escape, and continued though the trees and in the Dymrak. Caasi, fearing violence in the man, took this opportunity to use her sling, finding its mark. But insanity must have infected his mind, for he now leapt behind the trees and beyond.
Mounting my horse I summoned my companions to give chase; we mustn’t lose him in the woods! Kane knew what to look for and easily tracked him. We soon found Kalenos in a clearing, doubled over besides a tree stump, gasping for air. Kane, advancing, threw a net over him, and we wrestled him to the ground. He struggled and uttered mindless words, until Caasi, using magics given to her from her God, gently touched his face. Kalenos instantly became calm, the insanity extinguished, at least for the moment. We bound him, as Caasi said the madness would return, and she was right, for he soon began to moan and cry inhuman words.
We found nothing else at Iliyakana, but Kane did explain that there were two groups of goblins that had attacked, and one with wolves. It must have been the Red blades and the Wolf Skulls! It was the same groups of goblins that had attacked the Sukiskyn just days before! After a quick discussion we decided to continue our search at the Churkas farmstead, and we followed the Volaga River south west towards it.
The way was treacherous, and we even lost a horse to injury. But soon enough we had pushed through the wilderness to the Churkas farmstead, but what we found was more death and devastation. The goblins had been here as well, and made short work of the place. Kane closely analyzed the tracks, and he said that a set of prints moved away into the bush. We decided to send Taras back to Sukiskyn with Kalenos and that the rest of us would follow the tracks, but the trail was soon cold, so we followed Taras back to Sukiskyn.
Back at the farmstead we passed on the news of destruction. Pyotr looked concerned, his brother’s welfare certainly on his mind. Irena, one of the Sukiskyn clan, said that Kalenos’ mind was broken, and she was unsure if he would ever recover.
After replenishing our supplies, we soon headed back out into the wilderness. Checking in on other homesteads and camps was now all that mattered. We looked in on the Hokol farmstead, south west of Churkas, and the Sielo lumber camp, a little past Iliyakana. All we found was death. Not a single living person remained, and we returned to Sukiskyn saddened at our discovery.
Our spirits raised as we saw that Belgarath was up and about! He listened to our findings and suggested we head towards the camp we had encountered Miss L. Fyodorll. We could track the Vipers, and perhaps exact some vengeance! Doing as he suggested, we came to the Equine Entrepreneur’s camp after a day of riding. Nothing had disturbed the corral and wagons since we were last there. Now we hoped that Kane could pick up the Vipers’ scent, and lead us to their settlement.
Kane was soon in pursuit of the foul swine, heading east and deeper in the Dymrak. As we bed down for the night a discussion on whether or not we should head towards the Segenyev mining camp or continue on towards the Vipers nest. At dawn, we continued to follow the trail; finding the Vipers our sole purpose.
After a few hours we came to a steep embankment with a bubbling brook below. Kane motioned for us to be silent, as he believed our foe to be in the vicinity. Caasi climbed down to investigate, and soon found an opening in the side of the mound. We tied the horses up in the woods, and made our way down the embankment. A few meters into the hole we came to a florescent green door with the image of a snake carved into the wood. Our search for the Vipers was at an end.
The door was bolted from the other side. We silently looked at one another, knowing that we would need to either find another way or break this door down. Mearl and Kane took their hounds, and soon had found another entrance hidden behind the bushes in the side of a hill 100 meters from the first entrance. We lit torches and lanterns, and entered, ready to battle.
The tunnel was dank and dreary and smelled of earth. I had to crouch to continue, and the path wound its way through the earth like a serpent. I took the vanguard position with Mearl, and suddenly the ground gave way and I fell! It was a deep drop, and I hit the bottom hard, but was none the worse for wear. I’d fallen into a pit trap, the bones of previous victims proof of its danger. Caasi helped me out of the pit and used her skills and magics to heal me. A little shaken and moving a little more cautiously, we continued our descent into the dark.
We turned a corner and entered a large chamber illuminated by two large iron braziers. Ten of the foul creatures lay in wait as we entered the hollow, throwing daggers as we closed! Snakes lay all around between us and our foe!
I gripped my bow and loosed three arrows, dropping two of our foe as one of them threw a large snake right at me! It bit my leg and I grimaced from the pain. Mearl, steady with his bow also ended two goblins as they charged towards us. Belgarath used his magics and arrows leapt from his fingers and the rest of our party engaged the deadly enemy.
One of the snakes slithered up to Belgarath, but the fearless miser sliced the serpents head off as it attacked! I was not as lucky, as the snake that had attacked me coiled itself around my leg and squeezed! I almost screamed from the excruciating pain, but Caasi struck the life from the vile creature, saving me once again. I then picked up my sword and charged the final snake, taking its head as trophy.
The last survivor, a goblin significantly larger than the rest, turned and ran out of the room. Kane notched an arrow and bore it into the fiend’s back, but still it ran. Sprinting after the villain, Kane ordered his dogs to attack the lone Viper. We followed it down the corridor, finding a trail of blood behind it. We came into a room with two doors, and blood leading us to the one on the right.
We regrouped and followed the fresh trail down a winding corridor, passing openings and doors. I was leading the way as we entered another sizable room, only to be met by the sting of steel as a dagger cut my arm. A number of them lay in wait behind a barrier, cowardly little villains. I raised my bow and released an arrow, finding a new home in the head of one of them, but two more daggers cut into me. I had been injured so many times; I was finally slowed by the multitude of wounds and gashes.
Kane then took aim with his bow and killed another goblin as Belgarath sent his dogs over the barrier. We could see little, but heard high pitched shrieks as the pack tore the little bastards limb from limb. We could make our one of their number turning to run, but the hounds followed close behind. Climbing over the barricade, we arrived seconds later to find all of Belgarath’s hounds sitting attentively, yet surrounded by carnage, a hand still gripping the latch to the door, its body on the other side of the room.
And that, my friends, was the end of the Vipers, and is almost the end of our story, only one last point to mention. As we rummaged through the dirty belongings we came across a small, yet well made chest, one no bigger than a breadbox. It was locked, but we were all certain that valuables lay within. Kane could not open it, and without a word, handed it to Caasi. She looked at him, and then to Belgarath, and they both nodded as she raised her mace. I yelled at her to stop, that this was madness and that she should be patient! But alas, she brought her baton down on the fragile container.
It shattered, and we gathered closer to look at what lay within, only to see thick liquid spill out of broken jars. Some platinum was found within the broken glass and ooze, but miraculously one jar remained! I picked it up and cradled the jar, not allowing any more harm to come to the goo!
So, dear friends, we come to the end of our tale, as my flagon is now empty! Ha!
Awesome chronicle! Got me interrested in barrowmaze and B10. If there is more happening beyond the karameikan frontier, please share it!
Been mostly offline for quite a while, dealing with real life issues. But now that "we're putting the band back together," I thought it was time to post some more session reports here. We're miles ahead of where this account is at, at around Session 44, although the last few aren't written up anywhere as of yet. Regardless, here we go...
The first one back is a player recap from Belgarath's player as he caught up with the rest of the party in the wilderness near Sukiskyn after the tough battle with Fyodorryl that saw two of the parties' key Henchmen slain. Belgarath the Mage is now a virtual party unto himself, with probably the second-best Fighter in the group, Mearl, as his henchman, along with a retinue of War Dogs he keeps in top condition through his Animal Husbandry proficiency.
We tried out the Mercantile Ventures rules for the first time this session, and they were not a hit. Some of that was definitely my fault, as I was nowhere near as prepared as I should have been, but some of it is that they take some considerable work to run. No doubt this would be easier if I had them modeled in Excel, though I'm not sure how I feel about that. They are also not really worth the time for small loads, but I wanted to use the opportunity to "get our feet wet," so to speak. I will also need to do some more thinking on how to give them more of a hook to adventure or other campaign opportunities for the players...
The Belagarath Recap
PROFIT$, Goblins, and a Stone Forest
I noticed three wagons in the clearing free for the taking while exploring near Sukiskyn. The idea of making some money grew like a weed, keeping me up most of the night. Calculated profit margins, return on investments, and risk analysis all indicated a caravan trip with two wagons to all the cities and towns between Sukiskyn and Specularum was a great idea (i.e. totally boring) and it had to happen. Caasi agreed to come along and after retrieving two of the wagons (DM said: which would become surprisingly important fixtures for some time to come) we asked Pyotr if he had anything to sell. I bartered for 3 bundles of beaver pelts and 3 bundles of fox pelts for 13gp and some oak logs for 11gp. I was trying to calculate what a 30 percent return would make me when Caasi interrupted saying, “Hey we have some beaver and some wood … Get it?” I was confused by her words, and more confused by the wink she flashed me. Why state the obvious? And what about the fox? She forgot the fox!
Anyway, we were on the move the next morning headed for Helix. Once there, we met Vandelay, an elf who was looking for some adventure and agreed to come with us to Specularum. We moved on the next morning for Kelvin. The market there was a treasure trove of opportunity. 200 iron ingots @180 gp, 20 salt bags @ 90 gp. Some lamp oil @ 130gp and 6 hunting dogs @ 55 gp. I was sure I managed to talk everyone down just a little. I could feel the riches coming in! So excited (i.e. totally boring)! We also managed to pick up a passenger for the church of Karamikoes, brother Lucius, for 11 gp. Caasi was very interested in the poor man, and payed lavish attention to him on the trip. He didn’t seem to get the wood/beaver thing either.
In Specularum my dreams came true. I bartered up the price of the furs to 45 gp, the wood to 50gp, (beaver, wood, get it?!) ( stop it with the jokes, Caasi!) 130gp for the lamp oil, the salt for 120 gp, iron for 240 gp. And I managed to sell one of the wagons for 100gp! Yes, 100% profit there! The dogs didn’t sell, but I enjoyed the companionship. I met with my master, and was enlightened with new magics (DM said: Uncanny Gyration from the Player's Companion). Specularum was a great success! (i.e. borrrriing!) The way back to Helix was uneventful, and I managed to buy a fine bow for Kane, and a war saddle for Endithas,
Once back at Misha’s ferry I did a quick search of the cabin, but there was still no one there. Shortly after leaving the cabin we were attacked by a huge bobcat. We managed to fend it off and kill it but I felt it strange for a wild animal to attack a big group like ours (unbeknownst to the party, even now, the animal was Fyodorryl's pet).
Back at the Suluskin compound I managed to sell the hunting dogs for 45 gp. We decided to pick up the trail at the mining camp Segenyev and discover what the source of smoke was that Stikini saw the week before. The trip there was uneventful, but when we arrived we found 3 Gnolls searching through the rubble of the destroyed camp. Vandelay properly insulted them and they fell for it. Attacking us was their last action, and they were dispatched with ease. After searching the compound we found a note, with the words:
"Search for the map, make the prisoners find it, I will search in the east."
With my newly acquired hunting dog we managed to find a scent and track the goblins that attacked the camp to the south east. It was a long trip but uneventful first day of travel. The first night we were woken up by the noise of an Orc patrol to the southeast. They didn’t notice us as they seemed to be in a big hurry. Once the sun came up we tried to track them but the rocky terrain prevented us from picking up the trail.
We returned to the original trail for the goblins and moved south into a strange valley. All the trees, plants, and life, was turned to stone. Some great and terrible magic was released here. After exploration of the area we collected some stone flowers, pine needles, and branches. (DM said: this description glosses over how completely weirded out the party was by the petrified forest and the descriptions of the eerily silent gloom beneath its boughs...) Then the hunting dog yipped and egged us on: they had picked up the trail, and we were on the move again! We continued on and came upon a group of 10 goblins and 3 dire wolves. We attacked and dispatched several of them, the others surrendering in hopes their lives would be saved. I tried to communicate in hobgoblin, and was surprised to learn one of them spoke a language other than goblin fluently. After a little "persuasion" he informed us they had some human prisoners and he would lead us to them. But suddenly (DM said: inevitably?) he betrayed us, signalling the wolves to run off. We responded by finishing off the last of the group and tying up the translator. After further questioning we discovered that the goblins were working for a hobgoblin named Vlack who had brought the goblins together to search for "the great map." The traitorous goblin lead us to the edge of a small river where he said many guards were keeping the prisoners. Not liking our chances (DM said: it was, in fact, after midnight, our usual quitting time) we decided to take our goblin and head back to Suluskin to gather reinforcements and return to rescue the humans.
The trip was a huge success! We managed to make 288gp in returns and took 79gp from the corpses of the dead goblins! PROFIT$!
Around this time in our campaign I was buried with RL work commitments, and couldn't keep up with my usual pace of session reports. Fortunately, Endithas' player stepped up to fill the gap, and the next couple entries are his...
The party composition at this point was as follows:
Caasi - Cleric 3
Fodora - Fighter 1, Caasi's Henchwoman
Belgarath - Mage 3
Stikini - Belgarath's owl Familiar
Mearl - Fighter 2, Belgarath's Henchman
4 War Dogs - belonging to Belgarath
1 Hunting Dog - belonging to Belgarath
Kalasandr - Thief 4
Endithas - Fighter 3
Taras - NPC Explorer 3, younger brother of Pyotr (head of the Sukiskyn clan)
Attack on the Wolfskulls, Part 1
A Cock and Bull Fish Story
Well, dear friends, you have come to me for another tale I see. One with goblins, you say? Let me think...I may have a chronicle or two about goblins.
This is the story of the Wolfskulls, a tribe of goblins so fierce, they train and ride dire wolves into battle! They had joined with other goblin tribes in the region of the Dymrak Forest and were mercilessly raiding camps and farmsteads along the Volaga River. This is the story of how we fought back, and how we raided the Wolfskulls on their home ground.
Caasi, Belgarath, Kalasandr and Endithas had just returned from having cleansed the world of the Viper clan, another tribe of goblins in the region that had fought alongside the Wolfskulls. I had been grievously injured in the battle, and decided to remain at the Sukiskyn farmstead for a number of days while my companions ventured out into the wild without me. A week later they returned, with a captive goblin and news; they had located the Wolfskulls’ lair, and it had prisoners from their raids within!
While I was recuperating at the farmstead, it gave me pause to reflect on my adventures, and I was struck with an idea, as if through divine inspiration! Our party had collected so many objects, clues and trinkets, yet we had not truly inspected many of them. Caasi raised her arms above the mound of retrieved jewels and weapons, spoke sacred words to her lord, and announced that she had indeed sensed magical objects here! The ring I had recovered in the barrows, and the battle axe that had belonged to goblin chieftain of the Red Blades, Gnhass, were both enchanted.
Belgarath quickly picked up the ring, bringing it close to his one good eye in careful inspection. He placed it on his finger and asked us all if we could still see him, but, unfortunately, we could. The mage had hoped for the magics to instantly reveal itself, but nothing happened. The ring remained a mystery, and on the finger of Belgarath.
I picked up the Chieftain’s deadly instrument, hoping that I could make it sing once again, but this time with the blood of his kind. I named it Gnasher, feeling its power as I gripped it firmly in my hand.
Also needing closer investigation were the scraps of parchment that our party had found in the study of the Dark Cleric under the hill. I was not present when they were recovered, but Belgarath had mentioned them months earlier and then we all seemed to forget about them. They were written in a script, semi-religious in origin, though illegible to Belgarath. We asked Irena, a priestess at Sukiskyn, but she also could not decipher the writing, and neither could Belgarath’s feathery familiar, Stikini. But when the parchment made its way into Kalasandr’s hands, his eyes widened in realization.
Apparently Kalasandr is adept at reading languages, and he explained that the notes were mostly banal, including lists of equipment, money, materials, and chattel to be moved. However, one point of interest was that there was a reference to the Master, and that the Reaver will prepare the defenses. This seemed to prove what we all had long suspected, that dark forces were amassing, and that perhaps war was not far off.
We turned our attention to our prisoner, a vile, snarling creature from the Wolfskull tribe. We had great difficulty communicating with it, and we learned very little. Eager to save Stephan, a member of the Sukiskyn tribe, we questioned it on its lair, learning that there were seven sentries guarding seven prisoners at their camp. We looked at one another, fearing it would not be that easy.
With Taras joining us once again, we left the next day, knowing it would take three or four days journey there. We headed east skirting along the Dymrak forest and into the grasslands. We made good time on horseback, but as we camped the first night, Taras mentioned that he thought he saw something following us during the day, though he couldn’t be sure.
We broke camp early and continued. Belgarath sent his fluffy friend into the air to see if Taras’ suspicions were correct, and they were. We were being followed, and by several large wolves!
Pushing our horses and picking up the pace of our ride, we discussed what to do. There were few options available to us out in the wilderness. As night came, we camped just inside the dense forest. We lit three fires, protecting the horses in the middle. With darkness came the curdling howls of the wolves, but they never showed themselves.
The next morning we moved as quickly as we could, running from these unseen assailants. Storm clouds loomed ominously behind us as we turned south towards the Wolfskull’s den. We caught no site of our pursuers, and we prepared to camp one final night before we would arrive. The night was cold, and again we could hear howls in the distance, but they never revealed themselves.
On the fourth day, at around noon, we entered the Valley of Stone. All life had been petrified into grey rock, with the only living plant life a sickly moss covering the ground and trees. It was eerily quiet, and it darkened considerably as we entered the forest. The stone branches and leaves blocked out much of the light, and though it was midday, it seemed as if night were minutes away. I wondered what could have done such a thing to this
God_ Immortals-forsaken place.
We crisscrossed the forest along a perfectly preserved path, noticing animals turned to stone as well, seemingly running from the centre. It was unnerving to behold this abomination of nature.
As we passed below a large petrified oak, three dark shapes dropped from the branches of the tree, attacking us! They were brown, squirmy, winged beasts, each about the size of a small dog. One descended on Kalasandr, dropping him from his horse in desperate combat! I ran up to help and brought Gnasher down, cleaving the creatures beside Kalasandr.
Caasi raised her mighty mace and brought it full force into one of the enormous bats. It squeaked for a second on the ground, and then stopped moving. Belgarath began uttering his magics and a shiny object, perhaps a coin, appeared in mid air and suddenly flew through the centre of the final creature, leaving most of its innards spilled on the ground (DM said: Belgarath's player has decided that the Mage's Magic Missile spells have the appearance of a spinning coin).
We quickly and quietly continued along the path, though a little unnerved by the attack. The silence was soon broken by what sounded like running water. We could see in the distance a large petrified tree used as a bridge over a dark brook, and a single goblin guarding it, tossing rocks into the murky water below.
Quietly dismounting, Kalasandr motioned for us to make ready, and that he would take care of the lone sentry. Making his way along the edge of the path, and taking cover, he slowly and silently moved towards his target. Drawing his blade as he neared the bridge, his prey had not realized that death was upon him!
Kalasandr took the final step and swung his scimitar at the unsuspecting guard, but just as he leaned forward to attack, the creature noticed the advance, and narrowly dodged out of the way! Kalasandr brought his sword up and managed a glancing blow across the goblin’s face, and as he sliced his adversary’s cheek open, the fowl creature let out a piercing shriek!
Now locked in deadly combat on the bridge, Kalasandr and the goblin exchange blows. Mearl and Belgarath move up to help, but the only steel to strike home was Belgarath’s dagger in Kalasandr’s leg!
I took position with my bow at the ready should any other foes enter the fray, and no sooner had I raised my weapon, than a face emerged from the base of the tree across the river! I calmed my nerves and let the arrow fly; it found its mark below the beast’s eye, and the goblin crumpled to the ground without a sound.
Meanwhile, Kalasandr and the goblin were still entangled on the bridge, Mearl trying to impale the creature with his spear from behind Kalasandr. But the goblin was able to outmaneuver our nimble thief, getting it’s spear between Kalasandr’s legs and sending him over into the dark stream!
Belgarath, uttering arcane words and gesturing, fired another glimmering coin through the goblin’s chest. Such magics! He jumped as the beast hit the ground and shouted “Grab him! Money!”
Just then Kalasandr came up to the surface screaming! He was being attacked in the icy cold water by enormous bloodthirsty piranhas! Mearl jumped in the brook and pulled Kalasandr onto the path; he had gone limp, unconscious from the attack. Then we noticed where he had been attacked: he was covered in blood and gore, particularly in that place where men fear to see blood and gore! Surely Kalasandr would not be fathering any children in the future! (DM said: a tough roll on the Mortal Wounds table left Kalasandr a eunuch, his genitals destroyed (and eaten) by the ravenous piranhas; ACKS can be a wonderfully sick and twisted little game!)
Caasi collected a few coins from the goblin's corpse before rolling it into the stream below, and I ran across the bridge to a large opening in an enormous petrified tree. Taking cover to one side I could see a single light deep within. No other guards were aware of our intrusion, but we knew for Kalasandr’s sake we needed to retreat for the moment and care for our wounded companion. We mounted our steeds and withdrew, making our way out of the Petrified Forest.
Though the story does not end here, our evening does. I promise, more will come soon!
Attack on the Wolfskulls, Part 2 (EPIC!)
An Evening with Endithas Wolfram
Caasi, Belgarath, Kalasandr and I had come with Taras from the Sukiskyn farmstead in search of Stephan, Taras’ uncle. We had heard that he had been kidnapped by the Wolfskulls, a tribe of goblins wreaking havoc along the Volaga River. Stephan was at the Iliyakan lumber camp on business when it was attacked, and one of the survivors recognized him as a prisoner taken by the horde.
We had ventured to the Accursed Forest, where the trees are petrified stone, and home to the ferocious Wolfskulls. We had attempted entry, but Kalasandr was gravely injured, forcing us to make a hasty withdrawal. We headed back north towards Segenyev, another of the camps that had been destroyed by the roving war party, hoping it would provide shelter.
The wolf riders were not far behind as we pushed our horses to the brink of exhaustion, but soon the ruins came into view, just as the sun began to set. We hastily made camp, preparing ourselves as best we could before night fell, listening to the dire wolves baying in the distance. The night was uneventful, but I don’t think any of us got much rest.
The next morning Caasi set about further healing Kalasandr. She said that he would need an entire day to recoup, and that we could continue on the next day. We agreed that this would be best, and as we discussed what to do, Taras alerted us that two figures approached in the distance! We braced ourselves for attack, but as the riders neared we saw that they were Vandelay and his henchman, Roland! What luck that they were able to find us! (DM said: Yup, lucky! <nudge, nudge! wink, wink!>)
I spent the remainder of the day searching through the ruins, but the camp had been utterly destroyed with nothing but rubble to be found. We spent one more night hunkered in the ruins of Segenyev, and once again the chilling howls of wolves filled our ears, but they made no attempt at attack. As morning dawned, we began making our way back to the Accursed Forest.
The journey was uneventful as we crept closer to the home of the Wolfskulls. As we neared the entrance, we dismounted and peered forward. Three guards stood in front of the makeshift bridge where Kalasandr had been pitched from a few days earlier. They seemed rather disinterested, leaning on their spears, not expecting another attack. We aimed our missile weapons at the unsuspecting foe and in unison fired at our chosen targets. I held my breath as I released my arrow, waiting what seemed like an eternity to see if our bolts would find their marks. And then, without a sound, all three sentries fell, dead before reaching the ground!
With great haste we pushed forward towards the two petrified trees on either side of the bridge, but from one side a dire wolf leapt towards me, its rider attempting to plunge his spear into my heart! I easily sidestepped the attack as Vandelay fiercely stabbed the warg with his spear. I raised Gnasher, cleaving one of the beast’s ears from its head, and Belgarath’s hounds, smelling blood, pounced on the beast, ripping its throat out while Fodora’s steel pierced the goblin’s breastplate and into its heart.
Vandelay was quick to act as he tossed a flask of military oil into the entrance across the bridge. It shattered all along the front and into the enclosure as he next threw a torch onto the oil. Heat from the blaze could be instantly felt as an explosion of fire consumed the entryway. We moved forward, ready to battle as the fire quickly died out, plumes of black smoke pouring from the archway and into the sky.
The smoke did not take long to clear, and we stepped forward into the lair, weapons at the ready. We had come to the front of a large well lit area. A number of pieces of petrified wood were scattered in the room, probably used as chairs and stools. We could see two exits on the other side, and as we stepped deeper into the chamber, the room opened up to our left. Standing there, likely to shield themselves from the flames, we came face to face with our adversary, a dozen rabid goblins!
They were first to act as several of their number broke ranks and ran out of the room. Caasi stepped forward and into the mob, bringing her mace into the midsection of an enemy, crushing his lungs, leaving him dying, gasping for air. As she did so, Gnasher, having tasted blood earlier, brought me into the middle of the horde. Seven of the vile creature surrounded me.
To tell the truth, I don’t rightly remember it. The confrontation only took seconds, and I acted without thinking, dancing among the enemy with Gnasher to guide me as we twisted and turned. She found her prey with every swing; all seven of them were dead at my feet, blood spilling onto the floor, and I hadn’t taken so much as a scratch! (DM said: as I recall, Endithas went last the first round, approaching after the Goblins had whiffed against Caasi's excellent AC, handily Cleaving the maximum number of Goblins the first round, then winning Initiative the next round and Cleaving through the remainder. If there was any remaining doubt around the awesomeness of Fighters in ACKS amongst our playgroup, this display most assuredly dispelled it! Once again, Endithas was a laughing, gore-soaked god of battle...)
As I stood there, drenched in gore, we could hear banging metal and growling from the room that the three goblins had run into. Vandelay stepped into the doorway, but all he could see were elongated red eyes and the clinking of chains! I grabbed one of the torches lining the wall and tossed it into the room, illuminating the space enough to see goblins hurriedly unchaining a number of dire wolves, one of which was already free! This fight was far from over!
Vandelay, feet planted, arms gesturing, began to speak his ancient magics, his eyes bright and voice echoing! Suddenly, four ghostly elven berserkers appeared in front of him, looking to him for instruction. “Kill the warg!” he ordered them! They leapt into the room with reckless abandon, weapons raised and hacking wildly at the ferocious beast, injuring it badly. It turned on one of them, snapping its neck, and the ancient ghost disappeared back into eternity.
More chains fell to the ground, and a second dire wolf leapt forward. Belgarath commanded his hounds to attack, and they pounced in at the goblin warriors, injuring two of them. Caasi, rushing towards the injured wolf, brought her mace down in a ferocious strike, but still the beast fought on. Mearl, wielding his spear with expert precision, skewered a goblin as he lunged forward, its blood spraying his face as he pulled his weapon free of the corpse.
Kalasandr took careful aim at the second warg, landing an arrow in its haunch. The beast turned towards him, locking its jaws around his arm, his screams following the vicious attack. Gnasher led me into the room, and leaping directly between the two freed wolves I swung my axe with all my might, killing both in a single fluid motion. I now turned, face to face with another wolf and rider. Axe in hand, I sidestepped the beast to attack its rider, bringing my blade through the villain and into the beast below!
I was not the only butcher. The ghostly elves descended into further barbarism as they hacked the life from a wolf! Belgarath’s hounds attacked a chained warg, but two of the remaining wolves managed to get their jaws on one of the hounds, pulling it savagely limb from limb!
Caasi, wading into the fray, knocked the life from another of the riders, but perhaps she had stepped too far as deadly fangs closed around her face! I ran over and pulled her to safety as Mearl ended the monster, but as he did so, the last beast brought its rage down on his knee! The hounds leapt to his aid, and tore the beast apart.
Caasi’s eye had been badly mauled. Belgarath ran over and gave her the the healing elixir from the gourd the Neanderthals across the river we had given us. The wound began to heal, but I feared she would have a scar to remember the encounter!
We looked around our surroundings amid the death and carnage. To the south lay a single door. We had been met with heavy resistance in this first room, and we knew that if we were to probe deeper in search of Stephan and the other prisoners, there would very likely be more. We collected ourselves and focused on the task at hand. Kalasandr tried the handle to the door, and pushed it slowly, the hinges squeaking as he did.
What lay behind was another room, considerably smaller than the first, with two doors. We moved in, prepared for more violence, but nothing disturbed the silence of this tiny chamber. Kalasandr moved forward, motioning for us to lay in wait as he probed our new surroundings. The door leading to the south was locked, but moving to the second door Kalasandr became tense, having heard something. Pointing to his ear and then to the door, we strained to listen. And that’s when we could hear it, a general murmur, a number of voices behind the closed door, all speaking together. Pressing together and ready for battle, Kalasandr turned the latch, opening the door wide into the antechamber of the Wolfskull’s lair!
The murmur ceased the second the door opened. Standing vanguard with Mearl, we could both see clearly into the throne room of the Goblin King. A dozen more goblins stood in front of us staring, and behind them was their monarch, calmly in his large chair at the other end of the room. He slowly stood as we all glared at one another, taking his heavy ax in one hand and gesturing towards us with the other.
The instant he pointed, four spears came hurtling towards us with deadly intent. We managed to evade the attack, and then charged into the horde! Vandelay sliced with amazing precision, chopping two of the goblins down in front of us. His berserkers followed, destroying three more with their shimmering steel. We cut through the first group with ease, but behind them were five of the Wolfskull elite, kingsguard to their lord.
Belgarath’s hounds next broke their ranks, clawing at one and dragging him down screaming. I followed our canine companions and brought Gnasher to bear into the breastplate of another of our enemies, returning him to his maker. Mearl, working his spear yet again, found a chink in the armor of his foe, and the berserkers raised their axes in union to remove another of the goblin mob.
The king stepped forward alongside his last remaining minder, the two of them quickly becoming surrounded. The king looked at me, and we moved towards one another. He was quicker in striking, but as his ax came crashing down onto the cold stone below, missing by only a hair, when a white light suddenly illuminated brightly across his face, blinding him! Belgarath howled in glee as his magics blinded our foe, uttering curses and profanities at the doomed chieftain from behind us.
The goblin lord, shrieking in anger, somehow made good use of his weaponry, and without the use of vision, guided steel into one of the berserkers, and then into Vandelay! Another ancient warrior disappeared from sight, and Vandelay received a grievous wound to his shoulder, temporarily removing him from the conflict. Enthused by his lord’s frantic assault, the final kingsguard sprang towards me and slashed his ax into my chest. I countered with Gnasher, and we both stepped back, having injured one another.
From the bodyguard’s blind side, Fodora slipped her knife into his neck. He was dead on reaching the ground, a fountain of blood pouring from the artery. Mearl, once again, lead with his spear towards our final adversary, the king. He pierced the king’s side, then viciously pulled it from the wound, spun the weapon above his head, and thrust it square into the king’s face! The leader of the Wolfskulls was dead. Stepping over his slain foe, Mearl placed his boot on the throat of the deceased and pulled the bloody instrument free.
Kalasandr circled the mighty throne, now vacant, scanning every nook and detail. After a few minutres, he put his shoulder to the mighty seat, and then it began to move from where it was resting. Looking into a small compartment under where the chair once stood, Kalasandr took out a sack of gold, a kite-shield with the emblem of a white tree, a broken coronet, and a crystal decanted with an amber honey-like liquid. This, along with a ring with a bright green jewel, the king’s heavy axe, his pelt and an intricately designed belt buckle of gold, we had gathered quite a bit of treasure! We looked at one another, satisfied in the spoils of our victory, though our mission was not yet complete, to find Stephan and the other prisoners.
We returned to the smaller room, the only place we had not yet explored was the locked door in the south. Kalasandr said he detected no traps, so I put my shoulder into the aperture, but it would not budge! Mearl then stood in front of the solid oak door, and knocked it from his hinges! A smirk on his face, he picked up his spear, motioning politely for me to go first. (DM said: the lanky Mearl, STR 13, while nowhere near as strong as burly Endithas, STR 17, typically outperforms the bigger man on strength and toughness related feats due to Mearl's Dungeon Bashing Proficiency combined with Endurance; it's fascinating to see the play impact of Proficiencies helping to craft stories, personalities, and undercurrents to the gameplay - brilliant! - and it all fits with Mearl's background as a tough farmboy)
Before I had the chance, Belgarath arrogantly strode into the room! We stood in disbelief, as we ran to protect him, but too late! Half a dozen goblins were lying in wait for us, and had viciously attacked Belgarath as he came to the centre of the room, bringing him dangerously close to death! (DM said: yet again, Belgarath's player's impatience nearly cost Belgarath his life; Endithas' player is vastly more cautious, perhaps overly so, and Belgarath's player eventually snaps and hurls his Mage forward into the unknown, with often hilarious results)
Mearl and I charged the monsters, knowing we had one chance to save our friend. Mearl once again used his spear to ruthless efficiency, ending the life of one of the goblins. Kalasandr and Fodora, moving towards the largest of the horde, stabbed the creature over and over again, blood running from a dozen wounds. I followed, and once again Gnasher led me in a dance of death and dismemberment, as four of their number succumbed to my attack! The hounds dispatched the last two, and once again we had fended off our foe!
We were in a room that had a large, petrified elm in the centre, rising into the ceiling, and the smell of unwashed bodies and blood assaulted our noses. Beside the door we had entered from there was a large portcullis, with a prone figure in the back of the cell. We raised a lantern to better see into the cell, and in fact, there in the back, was an elderly old woman! “Misha, is that you?” Belgarath whispered. Her head raised, but she said she was Babushka, from the Cherkass farmstead that had been raided weeks earlier.
There were no other prisoners in the room, so giving Babushka a water skin and sending her to wait with Taras and the horses, we continued deeper into the stronghold. As we were about to continue, Belgarath walked up to me and placed the shield ring from the barrows in my hand, telling me it may do me more good than him. A little surprised, I accepted, and placed the shiny thing on my finger. (DM said: Belgarath had been messing with the ring for a couple sessions, but with little ability in the party to identify Magic Items, he has given up on it being a useful item; it was, in fact, a Ring of Protection +1, something Endithas would have far more use for, anyway)
A door to the south was the only option for us to continue, and once again Mearl bested me in knocking it down! As he did, we saw heaps of bedding and straw, and hiding in the corner were a number of Goblin females and their offspring. Ignoring them, we moved past and towards the one other door in the room. It opened easily, and the passageway that continued through was the hollow of an enormous log!
Only by single file could we continue, so I stepped forward to take the lead. We could see a door a ways away with a painting of a split skull. It was necessary to crouch in order to continue, and as I moved along, suddenly the ground began to give way! The floor started to collapse, splashing into water below! I leapt to safety, and as I regained my footing, we could see the piranha filled river rushing below us.
Carefully making our way across the gaping breach in the floor, we made our way to a painting of a split skull. The door opened into a tidy, well-kept room filled with wooden furniture. Three large ferrets were rooting around the other side of the room, their ears rising as they became aware of our presence. I threw some food towards them, hoping they would be more interested in the dried meat than us. Indeed, they were, and they leapt towards the food, ignoring us completely.
As I stepped deeper into the room, Mearl, thinking the ferrets were too dangerous, raised his arbalest, and fired at the feasting creatures. He missed, but the ferrets raised their pointy snouts towards us, and charged!
We were able to fend off the furry creatures, but it seemed as quickly as we killed one, another took its place! We killed close to a dozen, with the final animal retreating down into a hole in the side of the room. I stuffed a number of his dead bretheren into the hole, plugging it up. Hopefully that would halt further attack from the vermin!
We ventured into the room, quietly exploring. There was a door at the far end, but isn’t there always! Kalasandr motioned for us to be still as he listened carefully to what was behind. Signaling that he could hear three creatures breathing from behind the door, we knew that we had yet further trials ahead. We prepared ourselves for battle as Kalasandr open the door.
What lay inside was insidious to be certain. Three creatures with red eyes, two meters tall, with swords raised above their heads advanced. We had met such a creature in the past; they were thouls, part troll and part ghoul, and they can paralyze their prey with a single scratch! We hurried backwards through the door and across the gaping hole in the floor. We hoped they would attack us and we could pitch them into the river below, but no such luck. The thouls recognized what we intended, and retreated back into the room. Kalasandr closed the door behind them, and sealed the creatures in, using his spikes. They would not be able to escape from this side withough destroying the door.
We returned back to the prison chamber, and then to the entrance. We knew our time here was done, and that we needed to head back to Sukiskyn to restock and get Babushka, the goblin’s prisoner, to safety.
As we traveled she told us that there were five other prisoners that had been taken by goblins wearing iron collars. They were taking the prisoners to Xitaqa, where Zetaka, also known as ole skinny legs, rules in tombs, somewhere in the east. We tried to console Taras, but he had hoped to save his uncle, and our search for Stephan was not yet over. (DM said: it's hilarious how garbled some information becomes; luckily, I record any pertinent information on our Obsidian Portal website, such that the players can reference a reasonable version of what their Characters "know" at any given time...)
And that my friend, marks the end of our story, as it was the end of the Wolfskulls!
Hungry Like the Wolf
...or, the search for Xitaqa goes to the dogs!
Taras shrugged, seemingly uninterested.
Vandelay remained impassive, but Belgarath folded his arms across his chest in frustration, and Caasi shifted uneasily on her feet. Kane’s eyes narrowed as the elf explained, “It is important. It might be where your uncle is… detained.”
“I am sorry,” Taras said, his expression more drawn, “The name means nothing to me.”
The one-armed servant, Stellios, passed the man and elf carrying a crock pot.
“What name?” the balding man asked, puffing slightly.
Belgarath turned his eye on Stellios, “A name that none here seem to know: Xitaqa…” the Mage offered, saying the word as if conjuring.
“Gesundheit!” Stellios replied, grinning. None of the party members appeared to find his remark humorous.
“You misunderstand, human,” Vandelay interjected, “We are searching for the ‘ruins at old Xitaqa’ that the elderly crone, Babushka, said the goblins have taken Stephan to…”
Stellios heaved the crock on to a nearby shelf, then idly scratched his bald pate, “Eh… if you can’t find it, why don’t you ask the Horse-man of the Moor?”
Taras let out a sharp, barking laugh, “As if such an old wives-tale would help us! My grandmother would have suggested such a thing, were she still alive, but you, Stellios…?”
Stellios’ expression became more serious, clearly perturbed at being mocked, “Well, why not? Have you found anyone else who knows?”
“Pfagh! And a ‘protector of the horses’ is going to help the horse-traders, yes?” Taras shook his head in disgust, “Then my uncle is truly lost,” he said with finality, turning and walking away.
There was a pause as the man left, then Caasi asked, “How do we find this ‘Horse-man of the Moor’…?”
19th of Sviftmont to 30th Sviftmont, AC 999
Characters: Caasi (Cleric 3), Fodora (Fighter 1, Caasi’s Henchwoman), Belgarath (Mage 3), Mearl (Fighter 2, Belgarath’s Henchman), 3 War Dogs belonging to Belgarath, Kane (Elven Ranger 3), 2 Hunting Dogs and 1 War Dog belonging to Kane, Vandelay (Elven Spellsword 1), Roland (Normal Man 0, Vandelay’s Henchman)
Mortal Wounds: None!
Levelled: Caasi reached 4th Level
The party spent a day asking around Sukiskyn to see if anyone had heard of Xitaqa. While none had, the man-servant, Stellios, offered an old legend of the “Horse-man of the Moor” as a possible source of information (which Taras dismissed), that the adventurers assumed to be some kind of crazy druid. Pyotr’s daughter, Irina, pointed out that the word “Xitaqa” wasn’t Traladaran, but that the Traldar forbearers of her folk had once inhabited all the river-valleys of the Grand Duchy, before the Great Beastman Invasion.
Unable to think of any other way to divine the location of the ruins, the party headed for Helix, both in hopes of finding more information about Xitaqa, as well as discerning the secrets of the enchanted items they had recently realised they were carrying.
While passing through Helix, Kane and Vandelay stopped briefly to approach the goggle-eyed local sage, Mazzahs the Magnificent, and asked him about both the enchanted shield they had found in the Wolfskull lair, and the origin and location of Xitaqa. While Mazzahs could not be certain of the shield’s provenance, he surmised Alfheim as the most likely place of origin. He knew it was enchanted, but not the details of its dweomer. On the subject of Xitaqa, Mazzahs had considerably more to say…
While the sage didn’t know the exact location of Xitaqa, he recognized the word as being derived from the dead language of what he believed was a long-extinct progenitor race, pre-dating even the Traldar, and responsible for the construction of many of the ruins that now sat in out-of-the-way places in the Duchy. This long-gone race had even had a hand in the construction of the Barrowmaze, if the artefacts Mazzahs had collected were any indication. They had also enchanted many protective artefacts created in silver, and in jade. The Sage had seen enough of this race’s dead language to know that Xitaqa meant city of the branch, or fork (of a tree).
The group left Helix and carried on to Kelvin, Belgarath stopping long enough to purchase another War Dog from the market, as well as a trained Hawk. He and Caasi then left the city headed for Guido’s Fort, while Kane and Vandelay stayed in Kelvin to find and consult a sage on the questions Mazzahs the Magnificent had been unable to answer.
The elves’ search was not in vain, and after lining some palms with gold, they connected with a Mage named Reticulo, who was visiting the city from Darokin in pursuit of esoteric research. Unfortunately, Reticulo had never heard of Xitaqa, but he was considerably more familiar with Alfheim than Mazzahs. He told the two elves that the shield bore mighty defensive enchantments, and that few such specimens existed outside of Alfheim. No doubt the elves of The Forest Kingdom would pay dearly to return the shield to their people. In spite of this, it was decided that Vandelay would bear the shield ( making the Spellsword’s already formidable AC even higher! ).
Meanwhile, Caasi and Belgarath made the uneventful journey to Guido’s Fort, only to discover a buzzing beehive of activity. The number of militia present had noticeably increased, and they were actively drilling on the parade grounds. The pair quickly gathered coins and an enchanted cloak from the hidden chest in Belgarath’s townhouse, then sought out Ivana Boritsa, Reeve of Guido’s Fort, to determine the source of all the activity.
Ivana told them that bandit activity had increased markedly on the road around Penhaligon, and that extra militia drawn up in defense of the Fort were now being used to patrol the roads and scour the nearby countryside for the source of the bandit scourge. In the meantime, there had been no further abductions, and two other parties had crossed the River to the Hill; the first, in late summer, had returned unharmed but seemingly bearing little of value. The second, some weeks ago, had not returned, and as yet no one knew their fate.
The pair left the Fort behind with the uneasy feeling that the problems in the region were coming to a head, but with no clear sense of what might happen next. They reached Kelvin and reunited with their companions, exchanging much of their accumulated coinage and treasure for the trip back to Sukiskyn. Belgarath the Miser did his best to secure favourable terms, but in the end found himself outmatched by the slick money changer (the first time Belgarath had encountered someone with a higher rank in Bargaining!).
As the party went through their stash of items to sell and trade, they also turned up a black, glassy amulet they had taken from around the neck of the Dark Cleric under the Ruined Monastery. Realising it might be a potent embodiment of the forces of Entropy, they decided to take it to the Church of Karameikos in Kelvin for Caasi’s superiors to deal with.
Upon entering the cathedral, an argument broke out over who would be the one to present the amulet. Fearing mere possession of the thing would taint the bearer in the eyes of the Church, the amulet was tossed around like a hot potato as everyone tried to absolve themselves of responsibility for possession of the thing. Exasperated, Caasi finally relented, and nervously approached the prelate…
“Um… excuse me?” she stammered.
“What troubles you, my child?”
“Well, I have this friend… and they have this thing, that they’re not sure about. They got it someplace dark and dirty, and they’re worried about what other people will think if they find out what they have…”
“My child,” the Prelate said, soothingly, “For a reasonable donation such mortal ailments, as you – or your ‘friend’ – have, can be cured by the Immortals…”
“Okay, I… wait, what? You think I’m diseased?!”
Grasping the Prelate’s confusion, Caasi produced the obsidian unholy symbol from her tunic, and handed it to the Cleric.
The Cleric tut-tutted as he turned it over in his hands, before pronouncing it to be a symbol of He Who Shall Not Be Named. The Prelate drew out where it had been found, and then had to explain to Caasi the nature of Sinkholes of Evil, places where the power of the Sphere of Entropy bled through into the material world, and the importance of destroying them when found. Seeing the young Cleric was completely baffled, he went on to explain the nature of the Dark Triad to which Orcus belonged, and their lingering worship in the shadowed places of the Grand Duchy. Seeing his impromptu pupil wide-eyed and overwhelmed, the Prelate chided her for not attending to her spiritual studies, then promised to dispose of the unholy symbol.
“Are you going to throw it into a volcano, or something?” Caasi said, excitedly.
“I am going to whack it with my mace until it breaks.”
“Oh.” Caasi said, more than a little let down.
Relieved of their small burden, the party regrouped and headed back to Sukiskyn. Belgarath made one last stop at a glassblower’s workshop on their way out of Kelvin, as he had a special purchase in mind. Amazingly, the glassblower had what the Mage was looking for, in the form of a beautifully crafted glass eye ( Reserve XP! ).
Arriving back in Sukiskyn, the party went to Stellios in hopes that his ‘Horse-man of the Moor’ might yet help them find the information they needed.
“How do we find this ‘Horse-man’ of yours?” Belgarath asked the servant, his eyes pointing in different directions.
Stellios seemed flustered, and uncertain where to look, “Well… you must travel on to the high Moor…” he began.
“And then,” the servant continued, “At midnight…”
“You have to whistle…”
“For three nights…”
“While standing on one leg!”
“…you can’t be serious.”
Stellios was entirely sincere, however, as his last attempt at humour with Belgarath had fallen completely flat.
Resigned to the ritual, the party packed their horses and wagon, and headed for the far end of the grasslands, near to the ruins of Segenyev. There they camped, setting a watch by the light of the pitiful fire they made with what little brush they could find. The Spellsword, Vandelay, took the midnight watch with his Henchman, Roland, and was stuck standing one foot for some thirty minutes, whistling elven opera into the wind and waking everyone, until forced to stop as his leg grew sore. The remainder of the night passed without incident.
The second day Vandelay and Roland built a turf fort to provide a more defensible position. Later that afternoon, Kane spotted a large, tawny cat slinking through the grass towards their camp. He approached, and as he did, noticed a second large cat sneaking in. Mearl moved to deal with the second animal, but the Elven Ranger waved him off, slowly moving towards the animal, and attempting to befriend it...
I asked Kane’s player how he intended to do this, and his response was to hold out his fist, pinkie and thumb extended, then waggle his hand slowly while saying, “…wowwwwww-wowwwww-wowwwwww…” a la Crocodile Dundee. Unfortunately, even with Friend of Birds and Beasts, the Reaction Roll came up a 5, and both mountain lions ran off.
Disappointed, the party set watches for the night, and waited for Vandelay to whistle elven opera.
As the Spellsword stood lonely vigil on one leg, whistling, the sound of hoofbeats came rolling in from the darkened plain. As they approached, the party could see a group of horses, with a rider on the lead horse. As they horses came into the meagre light cast by the party’s fire, they were shocked to find the lead horse did not bear a rider, but was, in fact, a centaur!
Vandelay stepped forward to speak, but before he could, the centaur made sounds that were like nothing so much as whinnying. Amazingly, the party’s own horses pawed the ground with their hooves and tossed their heads as they responded in kind. Only after this strange exchange did the Horse-man appear to acknowledge the party.
“Who are you?” the Horse-man asked.
“I am Vandelay, Spellsword of the Callarii people, and these are my sworn companions. We were told we might summon your aid in this manner...”
The centaur nodded, then introduced himself, “I am Loshad. I am, and have long been… the guardian of the horses of this plain. But, tell me,” he asked, “…why are you standing on one foot?”
Chagrined, Vandelay dropped his leg before speaking, “We wish to know the location of the ‘ruins at old Xitaqa.’ Can you tell us where this is?”
Loshad seemed to consider the group before replying, “I know this place. And I can tell you it’s location…”
The tension melted from the group with this news, but then Loshad continued, “…and I will do so, provided you agree to two conditions!”
Wary, but hopeful, Vandelay enquired, “And what are your conditions?”
“First, you must bring to me, five days from now, in this place, the heads of Bailakask, and her son, Kalkask. They are skinchangers that prey upon the herds under my protection, and are mortal enemies of the horses. I will tell you where they lair…”
“And the second condition?” Vandelay asked.
“That you set these horses you have free to roam the plain within one month.”
There was considerable consternation at this, as the party had only recently acquired their steeds, but as Loshad’s offer was the best lead they had, it was decided they should accept. Loshad explained how to find the “skinchangers” lair, and then Belgarath asked, “What advice would you give in confronting these skinchangers?”
“They and their wolf-pack hunt by night. If you approach the lair then, most of them will be away on the hunt. That is the time to strike!”
Loshad departed, and the party began discussing plans. They possessed few enchanted weapons, with Caasi’s Ebon Mace, and Kane’s handful of Black Fletched Arrows the extent of their enchanted arsenal. They quickly came to the conclusion that it was risky to try and reach Helix to purchase silver weapons, and that Kelvin and back would be impossible in the time they had. Remembering that the smith from the destroyed lumber camp at Ilyakana had settled at Sukiskyn, Belgarath came up with a cunning plan.
The party gathered all the silver coinage they could, nearly 1,000sp in all, then dropped all the gear they could afford to spare in the wagon. Horses were loaded for fast travel, and the party left the wagon behind, conducting a forced “march” back to Sukiskyn. They arrived in a single exhausting day. The group immediately had the smith commence work on silver arrowheads, sling bullets, and a silver spear head, all made from the melted remains of the silver coinage the party had been carrying.
With two full days rest behind them, and a handful of silver weapons, the party headed on horseback to the site of the Werewolves’ lair. Arriving in the vicinity, north of Segenyev, the group travelled along a line of bluffs as evening approached, finding numerous wolf-tracks. Skilled as ever, Kane followed the tracks with his Hunting Dog to lead the group within sight of a cave. The party moved upwind of the cave, then Belgarath sent his owl Familiar, Stikini, to perch and watch. Well after dark, the owl returned, and reported that a number of wolves, one of them very large, had left the cave and headed west onto the Moor.
The party waited in darkness and silence for most of another hour, before leaving their horses behind (attended by Roland) and approaching the cave entrance. The opening was low, meaning all would have to duck slightly, and cut through the exposed sandstone face of a bluff. Moving into the opening, the party could see what appeared to be the skulls of horses, mounted on wooden pegs on either side of the tunnel. There was a low stench in the air, reminiscent of corruption. They could see the other end of the tunnel a dozen feet away, with the light of the starry sky as a backdrop.
Passing to the far end, the party’s movement was brought to an abrupt halt at the sound of a low, rumbling growl. A torch was thrown into the space beyond, illuminating two dark-pelted wolves, hackles raised, growling at the party’s approach. Moving to attack, the party released their dogs, and a howling, yelping melee began between the animals. Kane’s Hunting Dog was borne down by the Wolves, but the wolves themselves were killed by the party in turn. Three more pairs of eyes bloomed in the darkness beyond the light of the guttering torch, as the remainder of the wolf-pack present leapt to defend their den. These, too, were quickly cut down by the party, after which Belgarath moved to the aid of Kane’s injured Hunting Dog. His immense skill meant the dog would survive with no permanent injury, but would play no further part in any battles that night.
Belgarath got a decent roll on the Mortal Wounds table, then used his Animal Husbandry to cure the resulting Mortal Wound.
The group was now standing at the end of a slightly winding box canyon, open to the sky above, with steep walls some thirty feet high. The left-hand wall of the canyon was pierced by cave entrances at irregular intervals, some five in all. Halfway down to the canyon’s far end at the top of the wall on the right stood what appeared to be a figure, overlooking the canyon’s floor. A faint glint could be seen from its eyes. Stikini flew over to investigate, and discovered an unusual statue of a robed, jackal-headed man. The statue’s eyes gleamed with the twinkle of inset gems. Communicating this to his master (“Whoooo! Whoooo!”), the owl then took watch over the canyon.
Kane checked the nearest cave, and, finding nothing but dust and chewed bones (along with the stink of an animal den), carried his injured Hunting Dog inside to rest. After he did so, Kane and Fodora found a path and headed up to the statue to cover the floor of the canyon with their bows, while Caasi began searching the remaining caves.
It was at this point that Vandelay’s player was forced to leave, as he had a hard stop at midnight. The remainder of the group decided they wanted to continue, and Vandelay’s player agreed to have me NPC Vandelay, though he was more than a little concerned by our good-natured jibes about pushing the playerless elf to the front!
Caasi’s search turned up dust and bones in most of the caves, but one, neater than the rest, held a chest. Unlocked, the chest contained some tattered clothes, as well as a sizeable stash of coins, jewellery, and gems. An expensive saddle turned up in the final cave. Badly chewed, its silver gilt and fittings were nevertheless worth salvaging. While the caves were being searched, The Miser attended to prising the gems from the eye-sockets of the jackal-headed statue, determined to leave no treasure behind.
The canyon thoroughly looted, the party began their standard process of concocting a Rube Goldberg-eque plan to ambush the remainder of the pack upon their return. Kane, Fodora, and Belgarath would stand on the rim beside the statue, able to cover the floor of the canyon, a rope secured to the base of the statue coiled at their feet, the archers armed with silver arrowheads; Vandelay (playerless) would hide in the cave by the entrance, ready to cast Summon Berserkers to prevent the pack’s retreat; the wolf corpses would be piled in a heap at the farthest point in the canyon that could be seen from the entrance; the War Dogs would be kept quiet at the dead-end of the canyon, out of sight of the entrance, but within earshot of their master; and Caasi and Mearl would stand with a shuttered lantern on the path up to the statue, flasks of military oil at the ready, the former armed with a few silver sling bullets, the latter with a few silver bolts and a slivered spear. They would be unable to see the entrance to the canyon, but the bodies of the pack members would hopefully serve as a lure to draw the pack into the ambush.
After a few hours of waiting, a lone voice broke the silence, approaching the cave entrance. The sound echoed weirdly as it passed through the tunnel, and was joined with growls and yapping.
“…mother?” the voice said, as the approaching sounds abruptly ceased.
“Whooo! Whooo!” Stikini called, telling his master what the party already knew: the wolf-pack had returned!
Kane tossed a pebble down the far side of the canyon, the rattle echoing off the sandstone walls.
“I know you’re here…” the voice said – it was low, smooth, commanding – “…why don’t you come out, and we can talk, like… men?”
Kane threw another pebble towards a different point on the canyon wall.
The sounds of sniffing came from the entrance, “I can smell you…” the voice continued, “Your stink is thick in the air!”
Worried that the wolves would smell Vandelay near the entrance, Belgarath whispered across to Mearl, trying to convince his Henchman to walk out into the pack’s line of sight. The Fighter’s eyes were wide with fear, and he merely shook his head in refusal.
In spite of his tremendous Loyalty, Mearl failed his Morale Check when asked to face the terrifying skinchangers!
With the skinchangers refusing to take the bait of the piled wolf corpses, the party was becoming desperate. Thinking quickly, Belgarath cast Ventriloquism and spoke from the pile of dead wolves, “You have committed great crimes!”
There were shuffling footsteps, “Show yourself!” the voice snarled.
Belgarath continued to speak from the wolves’ bodies, “You could have stopped and been ignored, but now you must be ended!”
“You come here and threaten us in our lair?! When I find you…” followed by a few more shuffling steps and the sounds of sniffing.
Hoping to finally lure the pack forward, Caasi took the brave (or foolhardy) decision to step forward, and could see the packs’ eyes glowing by the starlight towards the entrance of the canyon. The silhouette of a lone man stood in the lead. Caasi lifted her now un-shuttered lantern, casting the man in sharp relief. He tensed, shouting, “You have violated our lair, and now YOU DIE!”
The man lunged forward, and as he did, his features ran like melting wax. His jaws distended, massive fangs erupting. His legs cracked and doubled back on themselves, as he landed at a run, and a great, shaggy black pelt erupted from his body. Now fully a wolf, the beast charged Caasi, who let out a small squeak as she nearly soiled her armour.
We’re not certain, but we think Caasi’s player may have pooped herself at this point, too. Fortunately, the party won Initiative.
Caasi and Mearl ( who is very slow ) turned and ran for the path up to the statue. Kane and Fodora loosed their crude slivered arrows at the Werewolf’s back, and while Kane bounced his off the canyon wall, Fodora planted hers between the Werewolf’s shoulders!
Belgarath unleashed the dogs who sprinted into combat with the werewolf, then cast Magic Missile, further wounding him. Badly injured, the werewolf lashed out, throwing the dogs ( who could not injure him ) aside as he fled to the nearest cave, Fodora hitting the fleeing werewolf with another held shot. The wolf-pack then charged the party’s dogs, swirling into an unruly mass as the two packs engaged each other. An enormous, grey wolf, far larger than the rest, broke from the others and ran to the base of the canyon wall below the statue, transforming into an unclothed woman with the sound of tearing gristle. The stout woman began scaling the rock face towards the archers!
Seeing the approaching Bailakask, Kane held up a flask of military oil that Belgarath lit, then hurled it at her, spattering Bailakask with a small amount of flaming oil. Undaunted, and cursing floridly, the woman continued her ascent. Back at the canyon’s entrance, Vandelay ( run by me ) came out of his cave and cast Summon Berserkers, the group moving to cut off the Werewolves’ escape route.
The trap now sprung, the party did their best to finish the Werewolves. Kane and Fodora fired at the climbing Bailakask ( who blew her Initiative Roll with a 1! ) with slivered arrows as she neared the rim, injuring her as the remainder of the military oil burned off, doing little more than reddening her skin ( the military oil had only inflicted a total of 3hp damage ). As Bailakask reached the top and began to clamber over, Belgarath cast Uncanny Gyration on her, ripping her from the face of the cliff, and hurling her to the ground below, landing her in a pool of military oil that had been lain before the wolves attacked.
I had thought that Uncanny Gyration would be a key part of any plan, using it to potentially render one of the Werewolves helpless and ready to be turned into a pincushion, but it seems not to have occurred to Belgarath’s player (who regularly laments the “uselessness” of his Mage) until the middle of the battle!
Meanwhile, after a shouted argument ( by the players, as well as the PCs; Belgarath’s player trying to convince Caasi’s player to pursue Kalkask into the darkened cave before he could heal himself ), Caasi ran back down the path to the dark cave Kalkask had fled into. Standing in the cave mouth, Caasi raised her lantern in time to watch the once-again human-shaped werewolf finish an entreaty to Entropic Immortals, before being overwhelmed by a stiffening sensation across her entire body. Fortunately, the power of the Church of Karameikos was with her, and she shook off the dark enchantment ( made her Save versus Spells with an 18, throwing off Hold Person! ). Once again panicked by narrowly avoiding death, Caasi turned and fled, Kalkask transforming back into an enormous wolf and pursuing her. The werewolf easily outdistanced her, savaging her legs from behind ( for 7 damage, raising the fear of Lycanthropy ).
Back near the statue, Bailakask had transformed back into her form of a monstrous grey wolf, rendering her immune to most harm ( she finally won Initiative, no easy feat against Kane who was at +3 to Initiative Rolls! ). The Elven Archer fired a flaming arrow at the military oil the mother werewolf had been dumped in, lighting it on her, to no effect. As she struggled helplessly, lifted off the ground by The Mage, Kane fired a final silver arrow at her, piercing her muzzle and ending Bailakask’s struggles.
As the party’s dogs slowly tore the wolf-pack apart, Caasi turned to defend herself from Kalkask, while Mearl lumbered up to aid her with his crudely slivered spear. Caasi’s enchanted Ebon Mace failed to connect, but the ever-reliable Mearl slammed his spear home into the Werewolf’s side, eliciting a howl of pain. Enraged, the werewolf turned on the man-at-arms, savaging his spear-arm ( 5 points of damage, once again raising the spectre of Lycanthropy ). The pair struggled with the beast, failing to connect, but avoiding further harm as the werewolf scrabbled against Caasi’s magic shield in vain. Throwing the beast off, Caasi brought down her mace, crushing the Werewolf’s skull, while at the same instant, Mearl stabbed his silver spear through its heart ( the two tied for Initiative, and each inflicted enough damage for a kill ). Without a sound, Kalkask fell dead at their feet.
Panting in the silence that descended, the party realised they had triumphed!
We immediately broke for the night, as it was now 2am, to leave all the housekeeping to our next session.
Any chance you can make your campaign public on Obsidian Portal?