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!