Quit bugging me!
…unless you want to bee my honey?
Session 2, the Hill
We started late again, with the last of the players arriving after 8pm. We then took a while to get the standard jokes and greetings out of the way, and didn’t begin playing until nearly 9pm. We quickly dispensed with an attempt to purchase another wardog (none were available, as Guido’s Fort is only a hamlet at the stronghold itself, Class VI), before we got into the meat of the adventure…
6th of Yarthmont, AC 999
Characters: Endithas (Fighter 1), Belgarath (Mage 1), Caasi (Cleric 1), and Kalasandr (Thief 1)
Mortal Wounds: Caasi (left arm disabled: can’t use a shield, 2nd weapon, or climb)
We kicked off play in our second session with the party trying to enact a bold plan of fraud: they would attempt to convince the residents of Guido’s Fort that destruction at the hands of the Army of Orcs was imminent, and only the PCs could save them – assuming, of course, that the locals ponied up and financed further expeditions across the water. The party put out the word of a community meeting at the public house, with all invited to discuss the future of the fort.
A good crowd showed up, as the meeting was the most interesting thing to happen in the area since the Dmitros family disappeared amidst rumours of ogre slavers on the loose. While the party had the fact that they seemed to be the only ones who’d returned from a trip to The Hill on their side (corroborated by Boris), Guido’s Reeve seemed less impressed with their attempts at extortion. The whole town meeting at the Lion’s Den wound down with the party buying a round of drinks, and the locals enthusiastically cheering them on to greater exploits (or death, whichever came first).
After the townsfolk began dispersing, Ivana discussed arrangements with the party, agreeing to finance the purchase of basic supplies and provisions, as well as arranging transport across the river, in return for any information on the movements or plans of the supposed Army of Orcs. Not entirely unreasonable, and it gave the new players a chance to pick up a few things they hadn’t had the money for.
The next morning, the party headed down to the river to be greeted by Boris, ever eager to ferry the group to the far shore (especially if it meant a break on his taxes). They landed in the same northern clearing as on the previous foray, once again wading ashore through the marshy shallows. The air was quite warm, and a few buzzing insects flitted about. The clearing was otherwise quiet. Following their previous map the party headed uphill to the south-west, through another quiet clearing (they listened and heard nothing), and on an unexplored path leading to the north. This path eventually opened into a much larger meadow, covered in chest high flowers and grass.
As the party stood on the edge of the meadow considering their options, several PCs noticed a distinct droning sound at the edge of hearing. As everyone stood and listened more carefully, the noise increased in volume, as if approaching, and Belgarath’s dog, Argus, began a low, rumbling growl in his chest. A moment later, a looping, dark blot rose into the sky above the grass nearby, humming incessantly, and flew towards the group in a meandering fashion…
…landing on Endithas, much to the warrior’s surprise. A stinger the size of a dagger jammed into his throat just above his chest plate, and Endithas immediately felt the burn of venom coursing through the wound. The giant insect fell twitching to the ground, it’s abdomen tearing free of the embedded stinger with a sucking, crunching sound. Caasi quickly used her Healing Proficiency and ability to Lay on Hands to remove the stinger and tend to the wound, and the Fighter made his Save vs. Poison.
With the droning sounds of more of the giant insects approaching, the party leapt into action! Unfortunately, that meant leaping in different directions. Endithas lunged forward into the clearing, crouching low in the waving grasses in an attempt to remain out of sight of the giant bees. Caasi immediately withdrew out of the clearing, back to the apparent safety of the treeline, and Belgarath dragged a growling Argus to join her, the fragile mage not wanting to be left to face the flying horrors alone. Kalasandr, whose lightning reflexes usually meant he would react first (I’m not sure his player has rolled less than a 4 for Initiative up to this point, plus his bonus), hesitated – the cover of the trees? Or the long grass of the clearing? Deciding he didn’t wish to completely abandon his wounded comrade, he bravely lunged after Endithas. And with that, the party was split. Which usually ends well.
Unable to communicate with each other, the two pairs of PCs began acting independently. Kalasandr and Endithas duck-walked across the large clearing, mindful to stay as hidden as possible in the long grass. Belgarath and Caasi dithered amongst the trees. The former pair soon reached the far side of the clearing (passing a fierce buzzing that may have been the bees’ hive) and discovered another path leading out of the area. They hustled across the relatively open ground as the grass gave way to trees and undergrowth, waiting for the droning sound of death from behind (or above). It never came.
Realising the others had now been gone for a long time, and seeing no sign of them beeing attacked (see what I did there?), Belgarath decided to attempt to move through the clearing under cover as the other two had apparently done. Grasping the collar of Argus tightly, he pulled the growling hound down on to his haunches and moved out. Caasi, finding herself alone, decided the patron Immortals of the Church of Karameikos would protect her! She held her shield and mace high, and advanced into the clearing in a defiant march. The bees, deciding they didn’t like her haughty demeanour (okay, not really – they’re bees!), quickly descended on her.
Caasi, realising that Immortals might be more interested in helping those who help themselves, assumed the foetal position on the ground, her shield covering as much of her as possible in an attempt to avoid the lethal stingers. As bees the size of small dogs rained down on her shield, she blindly lashed out around her shield at them.
DM’s aside: In the event, I decided to rule that she would gain a bonus to AC (which was already 7!), but suffer the attack penalty as for being blind.
She managed to squash a bee or two, before finally beeing (HA!) stung, then failed her Save vs. Poison; and here is where the (once again) late hour took its toll on me: paranoid after forgetting to allow Kane to Cleave in the previous session (these players were all new to ACKS, and I was having to remember everything), I convinced myself that I had forgotten to let her Cleave. I hadn’t, of course, as a 1st level Cleric can’t Cleave, but as recompense, I decide to allow a throw on the Mortal Wounds table if and when the other party members reached her.
Realising the bees swarming in the midst of the clearing must be attacking their friend, the now reunited Belgarath, Endithas, and Kalasandr quickly split up again, the latter two lunging back into the grass to help their companion they assumed was being attacked. As they neared the center of the clearing, a pair of the giant bees rose from the now dying Caasi and flew towards them. A few spectacular attacks later, and those bees had been dealt with, allowing the pair to reach the unconscious Cleric.
Meanwhile, finding himself once again alone, Belgarath moved somewhat more cautiously into the clearing, sending his faithful hound Argus ahead to hunt giant bees. The hound quickly attacked some bees, but came off the worst in the encounter, taking an envenomed stinger through the eye. As revenge, Belgarath obliterated the final threatening bee with a magic missile.
Caasi was revived, with her left arm reduced to a useless, blackened flipper by the bee’s venom. She downed a Potion of Healing (from the 3 generously gifted by The Old Timer), at least allowing her to move (sans shield). The party then moved on through the bee clearing, and while a faint droning could still be heard from the north-east, no further bees attacked the group.
Moving along the twisted network of trails, the party attempted to ascend towards one of the Hill’s summits, eventually finding themselves in another clearing. Here, the rocky granite spine of The Hill was exposed. Boulders lay about the clearing, and multiple trails led out of it, both uphill and down. Near the uphill end of the clearing, a squat, goat-legged stone statue sat on a plinth. A cave was also discovered, it’s entrance choked with underbrush. Leaving off the cave for later exploration (it was well past midnight in the real world), they looked a little more carefully at the statue, and discovered that it had glinting, purple gemstones for eyes.
Quickly deciding the trip wouldn’t be in vain, the party prised the gemstones from the statue’s eye sockets, then beat a hasty retreat back the way they had come, crossing to the safety of Guido’s Fort, bruised, battered, and no longer broke, but determined to make another attempt…