The Road to War

Clubbing with Halflings

The ship and crew arrives back at Sadrak’s Splinter and finds that Divak and his crew of delvers have not yet returned from their mission. The group spends the next few days waiting for the return of Divak. On the second day, the ship Fair Wind (nicknamed A Foul Wind) arrives at the splinter and the crew, the Black Arrow company disembarks.

Jason and Thorfin both recognize members of the crew, and the ship as being those that they had encountered previously at the “Dragon’s Splinter” back when they had been going after slaves captured by Sinruth and the Red Hand. The two decide to keep a low profile to avoid being recognized.

Yardstick the Immeasurable the crews new halfling wizard spends his time gambling with the crew of the Fair Wind, winning a considerable amount of money. Late in the evening a group of the Black Arrow crew approach Yardstick with an offer. They have heard the rumors that the Boltsmelter salvage crew found a new dwarven city ripe for plunder and offer him several hundred gold in exchange for the location of the outpost. Yardstick explains that he will need some time to get to the map, which is locked away in the captains quarters, but he should have it, or a copy of it in five or six hours. They plan to meet in a room on the third floor just after midnight.

While in the tavern, a man who had been marooned by another airship crew approaches the captain of the Fair Wind and attempts to sign on with the crew. The conversation between the two men soon turns sour and the marooned man is threatened with a beating unless he leaves the inn. As he turns to do so, Thorfin recognizes the man and follows him outside.

Once outside Thorfin gains the mans attention and steps into an empty store room and speaks with Capt. Blackstone of the Lions of Brindol. Blackstone explains that he has long suspected the Black Arrow company of being somehow involved with the slave trade and weapons smuggling, but has been unable to prove the charge. He was attempting to infiltrate their crew but due to the altercation with captain he will have to come up with another plan.

Later, Capt. Blackstone approaches Thorfin again. This time he has a plan. The Black Arrow company has been attempting to bribe many of the Boltsmelter Salvage crew into revealing the location of their latest find. The plan is to convince Jason to steal the map, join the crew, then work as a spy keeping an eye on their activity. They approach Jason, who reluctantly agrees and the trio head for the Elven Whore after dark and steal the ships charts.

Yardstick gladly hands over the ships charts and the location of the near pristine dwarven outpost over to Digby Holt (halfling navigator) of the Black Arrow company. Digby inspects the charts for a while, then hands over the 200 gp that was promised. Yardstick then heads back to the main room for some more drinking and gambling.

At almost 2 A.M. the elevator in the middle of the shaft grumbles to life, waking everyone in the inn. A half an hour later, a dirt and grime covered Divak and his crew emerge from the lift. They have a few beers and a some food before they head for their rooms to get some sleep. While eating, Divak and Vauglear Boltsmelter catch up. Divak reveals that they were unable to recover what they were after, but that he was already planning a return trip. One that should be shorter and easier. With any luck, the next time he will return with the Principia Elementus.

In the morning the crew of the Elven Whore kills time by preparing the ship or relaxing at the Inn while Divak’s crew catches up on some sleep. The Inn is mostly deserted as the Black Arrow crew is preparing their ship, and unloading and loading cargo. A couple of halfings from the Black Arrow crew show up and order a short keg of week beer. They tell Yardstick that they are on break for an hour and that a game of dice has already started over in the warehouse if he is interested in losing some money.

Yardstick heads off to the warehouse while the others stay behind in the Inn. Yardstick arrives in the warehouse and finds Digby Holt and eight other crew from the Black Arrow company waiting for him, clearly there is no dice game in progress. He quickly scans the room, sizing up his opponents and any means of escape. “So, you thought you could run a quick one on us, and that we wouldn’t figure it out eh?” grumbles Digby holding up Yardsticks map. “Well, it just so happens that we have the original charts, and well, your map just doesn’t jive with the ships charts” Yardstick holds up both arms, as if to signal his confusion and innocence, but this is merely a ploy and he uses his opponents lack of knowledge of his capabilities to surprise them a spell. A shock wave of force pushes Digby and several of the thugs standing near him, to the ground. Then the halfling wizard bolts for the door, only to find it guarded by more crew. The Black Arrow crew reacts quickly and they rain numerous savage blows down on the halfling as he desperately fights for a way out. A second spell knocks over a few more thugs and allows him to unbolt the door and run down the alley, but not before more blows from the thugs connect with his thick skull. The halfling runs through the doors of the Shaft, and between the waiting allies Brother Thorfin Hammerfist, and the 7’6" gnoll Vauglear Boltsmelter, who were alerted to his plight by his scream, which they had at first thought were the cries of a small helpless female child, before realizing that it was instead their crew member Yardstick.

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Helzik

After entering the abandoned dwarven outpost the group finds that it is uninhabited and abandoned. Most of the buildings have collapsed from the tremors caused by the great cataclysm. After hours of searching through the rubble and the city the group discovers that all the exits have been sealed by either mechanical or magical means. The magical seals, though once very powerful have faded over time and would no longer be difficult to overcome. In the rubble the group finds many valuable antiques; gold, silver and platinum trinkets and load themselves up with as much as they can carry. After making their first haul back to the ship the descend once again and begin collecting valuables.

Shortly after returning the are alerted to the presence of intruders who come the through the gate they used to gain access. Hiding among the ruined buildings the group decides to wait and see who they are dealing with. Thorfin is able to make out several Drow, goblins and Duergar at the entrace. These forces then split into three groups. The main contingent of Duergar remain at the gate, blocking any escape while the other two group search the rubble.

Thorfin retreats back to the group and reports his findings. The group is quietly discussing its options when they each hear a scuttling sound coming from the direction of the gate. A centipede climbs over a ruined wall not far from where the group is huddling, it is soon joined by a second, third and fourth. The centipedes, having detected the group, move in for the kill. As they attack the PC’s the centipedes Duergar masters ambush the group with well placed crossbow bolts. After killing all four of the centipedes and one of the Duergar the second Duergar scout retreats back towards the gate.

The group has taken its share of cuts, bruises and wounds from the fight and need time to recuperate. However, they hear the sound of foot steps approaching from their right flank. The drow and goblins having heard them battling the centipedes are moving in to join the fray. The group decides to hide, hoping that the Drow will pass them by and give them a chance to rest. That is their hasty plan anyway. Thorfin and Yardstick, seeing that they have a good opportunity for an ambush jump into action. The halfling wizard drops a spell into the middle of a group of goblins, while the other members of the group spring into action. Thorfin is surrounded and wounded by numerous poisoned goblin blades, while the rest of the group quickly brings down the two Drow warriors. After felling the remaining goblins as well, the group gets a well deserved breath.

The exit is still barred by the Duergar guards and the group reckons that it is now right around sunset. Fearing that waiting will only bring more duergar and their allies, the group decides to break out. Figuring that it is worth a shot, Vauglear severs the heads of both drow warriors and the duergar scout. Pulling himself up to his full height he boldly approaches the duergar, severed heads in one hand, flail in the other. He throws the heads towards the gate, where they roll to the feet of the waiting duergar guards. “Stand aside, or your heads will join theirs” he growls defiantly. The duergar captain laughs at his pathetic attempt, before realizing that half his warriors just ran off. The angered duergar charges for Vauglear, only to be cut down by the group before he can even make an effective attack. The rest of the duergar, shorthanded as they are, prove to be no match for the group.

After leaving the tunnels, the group camouflages the entrance then heads back to the airship. Once back on the airship the group rests and the captain tells them, that they will head back to Sadrak’s Splinter in the morning.

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Into the Shattered Lands

The group is soon all loaded up on the Boltsmelter Airship, the Elven Whore. The roof of the warehouse is winched back and the lines securing the airship are released and it rises quickly into the night air. They are soon over the shattered lands passing over Moradin’s Watch and to the right of the Monastery of the Sundered Chain. The group watches the sunrise of the shattered lands and then spends the rest of the morning lounging and getting a good look at the Shattered Lands below. Surprisingly the terrain below is verdant and heavily forested, which surprises most of the group. After two and half days of constant travel the airship arrives at Sadrak’s Splinter deep in the shattered lands.

Once they arrive the ship circles around giving all a good view of the small windswept village built upon the towering 2000 ft. splinter of rock that rises out of the Stonehome Chasm below. It is on of the few sections of land in this region to have survived the great cataclysm. The ship docks on a stone pier and soon the ship is being unloaded by the crew. Supplies for the splinter are quickly unloaded and taken to one of the two large warehouses adjacent to the pier. After work is done the capt. gives the crew leave to go to the Shaft, the only tavern and inn on the splinter, which also doubles as an access point to the underdark caverns below the splinter. The group spends the rest of the day getting acquainted with the hamlet and then drinking at the tavern. The day passes uneventfully and in the morning they set about helping with the final preparations for Divak’s Delvers. By mid-morning Divak and his crew are off and the PC’s and the airship crew ready the ship and cast off from Sadrak’s Splinter

The ship travels south, the capt. explains to the crew that they are off to do some exploration of a region that the ship passed over a few months ago. When doing so, one of the crew thought they had seen a cave opening. Since the crew has about a weeks time to kill until Divak and his crew return, the airship crew and the PC’s are tasked with checking the area out and determining if there is an opening to the underdark in this region. Not glorious work, but necessary none the less the capt. informs them.

On the second day the PC’s notice what appears to be a city off the starboard bow off the ship, approximately 15 miles away. When they question the crew about the presence of a city in the shattered lands, most of the crew is evasive and some become hostile. One of the old dwarves finally takes them aside and sets them straight. “Sure, their is a city over there. If you can call a passel of Orcs and Goblins something akin to civilization. The thing is, we don’t mess with them, unless they mess with us, and most airship crews consider it ill luck to even mention it. So you’d be best to just leave it alone.”

Mid day on the third day the airship reaches its destination and is secured, while the PC’s begin their search of the area. After searching for a few hours the group finds the large cavern spotted by the ships lookout months back, or what they assume the lookout spotted. They set about exploring the cavern, which looks to be natural and to have formed during the Chasm’s collapse. The cavern narrows down to only about 3 ft. in width and the group decides that it would be best to send Jason “The Raven”, the groups halfling, in to investigate the narrow confines alone. After 20 minutes or so the halfling reports back that the passage expands again after a few hundred feet and dead ends into a small chamber with a hole in the floor. He informs them that they will need some rope and more lighting to explore the shaft in the small chamber further. Jason “The Raven” seems hopeful that the shaft is an entrance into the deep-reaches.

Once in the room the group decides to drop a torch down the shaft and see how deep it is. They determine that it is about 150 ft. deep and that the shaft is not actually a shaft, and that the chamber below is rather expansive. Again they decide to send the halfling down on his own, and then follow him down if his initial exploration proves safe, otherwise they will pull him back up as quickly as they can.

Jason “The Raven” soon finds himself at the end of the rope on the wet rubble strewn floor of a large cavern several hundred feet in diameter. The light from his torch illuminates a large passage way at one end of the chamber. He gives the all clear signal to his comrades and they soon join him below. They follow the passage out of the chamber and find that it splits into three directions. Thus far the walls of the passageway have been natural rough stone. As the group investigates they discover that one of the passages appears to be of worked stone a little further down. Dwarven craftsmanship Thorfin Hammerfist assures them. The group decides to explore this passageway in the hopes that it will lead them to dwarven tunnels. After about half an hour the group reaches a large chamber. The floor is covered with rubble and a large pool of water. At the far end of the room is a large steel door approximately 50ft in width and about the same in height. There appears to be no way to open the gate from this side. The intricate carvings on the gate are of dwarven warriors and their martial exploits. After searching the room for a number of minutes the group turns up nothing new. Just when they are about to give up they hear here a series of loud clicking noises behind them. They turn to see a large Hook Horror charging at them.

Thorfin and Vauglear Boltsmelter are the first to react and charge at the beast. The Hook Horror lashes out at them with its hooks and grabs Vauglear and throws him careening into the air and into a large pool of water to the right. The rest of the group joins the fray and Vauglear soon recovers from his dizzying throw and charges out of the water at the beast. The Hook Horror is killed and Brother Ash then spends some time removing the beasts carapace while the rest of the group goes back to investigating the large gate.

After some time, Jason “The Raven” discovers the outline of small door that is flush with the stone around it and securely bolted into place, and approximately 15 ft. off the ground. After forming a gnoll-dwarven-halfling pyramid and using the Hook Horrors hook claw Jason finally manages to open the corner of the corroded and weakened metal door enough to take a look inside. Jason sees a large number of gears of varying size inside and surmises that they are part of the mechanism that raises and lowers the gate. Given hope that they might gain access the group continues until Jason is able to squeeze through the corner of the door and then open it from the inside. He secures a rope and lets his pals climb up to the secret door to have a look at the gear filled room. Ondo the Bard spots a platform about 40 ft. above the group that looks to be some sort of control panel and the group decides to climb up and investigate that.

On closer inspection, it turns out that the scaffold is indeed a control panel for operating the gate. Now the only problem is that the gate’s power source is long dead, but Ondo is able to determine that using a little mystic energy will activate it long enough to open the gate. So he lays his hands on the device and uses his own magic energy to power the device. The ancient dwarven gears strain, grind and clunk but finally manage to open the massive steel gate.

The group returns to the gate to see what lies beyond. They find that piled against the gate were hundreds of dwarven skeletons. Based on the size and scraps of clothing present they are able to determine that the skeletons are most likely those of women and children. Beyond the group sees the remains of a small dwarven city that appears to have been untouched by the salvager’s hand. And so with heavy hearts and high hopes for loot, the group wades through the massive pile of bones and into the dwarven citadel beyond.

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Arrival in the city of Overlook

After an uneventful eight day journey through the Elsir Vale the group follows the Dawn Way then the Old Dwarf Road skirting the Wyrmsmoke Mountians. The group arrives safely in the city of Overlook just before noon on the eighth day. They spend a few hours looking around seeing the sites the city has to offer. The group quickly becomes overwhelmed by the sheer size and magnitude of the strange new city and decide to seek out Divhon Boltsmelter, the owner of a local Salvage Operation and friend of Adronsius the Alchemist, before exploring the city further.

After asking for directions several times the group finally finds themselves outside the western wall of the city, on the road that leads to Moradin’s Watch, located five miles to the west of the city. About halfway between the two they find Boltsmelter Salvage, an imposing three story stone building with a large 40 ft. gate. A set of stairs off to the side lead up to the second story and the main door of the building. The building is devoid of any other entrances or windows, apparently concerned about security. Atop the stairs at the stout wooden door is a large bell. The group rings the bell and waits. A few moments later a soot covered dwarf dressed in a leather apron opens the door. He eyes the group suspiciously until they hand him the letter of introduction. He skims the letter then tells them that he will take them to speak with the ‘old man’.

The group follows the dwarf into the building and the door shuts and locks behind them. Once inside their eyes quickly adjust to the dim light. The party makes they way through a maze of crates and barrels stacked haphazardly about the floor until they arrive at the center of the building. They see that the companies airship is parked in the center of the building. Currently crews are making repairs, and loading cargo while above, halfling riggers crawl over the ship adjusting and optimizing the ships sails, and masts. Ahead of them on a small balcony are two dwarves, nearly identical in appearance, except that one is much older than the other. They are both hunched over a pile of maps and papers strewn about a table. They talk animatedly until a gnoll bodyguard alerts them to the groups presence. The conversation stops abruptly and the open book on the table quickly shut. The dwarf escorting the group hand the letter of introduction to the older dwarf, who reads the letter then looks at the group again. He tells them that they should discuss matters in his office where it is much quieter and then leads the way after rolling up the letter and handing it back.

Once in the office the old dwarf introduces himself properly and in turn is introduced to each member of the group. After a few minutes of chit chat about his old friend Adronsius he finally gets down to business. He tells the group that he is not currently in need of an adventuring group, but says that he has some other, more mundane work that they can do until he can organize something more profitable. It will give them both time to adjust to each others operations and to make sure that they are a good fit. If they are interested they need to have their gear ready to go in four hours. The will be leaving Overlook aboard the ‘Fat Wench’ Divhons airship. They ship will head out across the Shattered Lands heading to Sadrak’s Splinter to drop off some supplies and a salvage team that will be descending through the “shaft” located at Sadrak’s Splinter. After helping to unload the cargo, they PC’s and the ship will then head south for a day and a half. Once they reach their destination the ship will land on the chasm floor and the group will search for a possible opening that one his crew reported seeing a few weeks back. A few days of mundane searching, he tells them, it’ll probably turn out to be nothing as usual, but it always pays to check out these sitings.

He tells them to quickly fetch their gear if they left any in a local inn, and go down below to get any extra gear they might need from his stores in the basement.

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Things that go BOOM in the night.

After heading upstairs to their rooms for the night, Thorfin, Jason, Ruckus and Erik all gather in Thorfin’s room. Jason gets to work inspecting the chest the group recovered from airship crew on the dragon’s splinter. The little halfling soon has his lock pick set out and the chest open in short order. The group eagerly open the chest, each hoping to find a a hoard of gems or gold. Instead the see a curious object, roughly the shape of a bell and covered with unknown runes. Jason lifts the object from the chest to inspect it. The runes glow a blueish hue from an inner light. Jason notices that when he touches a rune it glows brighter….

Down the halway the Bard Ondo, Sister Sarah and the other patrons of the Inn awaken to a loud crashing sound. Ondo throws open his door and looks to his right to find that a large chunk of the Inn is gone, utterly and completely destroyed. Below in the rubble he sees a halfling laying limp on a dinner table and under a pile of rubble a short distance away, an unconscious dwarf. Ondo, and Sister Sarah rush down the stairs and she helps Jason and Thorfin recover with healing energy from her prayers. After the two regain consciousness the group looks out on Brosby square, where a large glowing orb floats 15ft. or so off the ground. Villagers in their night clothes stand by staring as the orb drifts slowly away from the Inn across the square. From the glow of the orb emerges two forms, one humanoid and the other canine. The group assumes that it is Erik and his wolf. The group moves forward to lend them assistance should they need. It is not until they draw closer that they can see the Erik’s lifeless undead eyes, and seared away flesh. Erik, or more correctly, his undead corpse lunges out trying to attack Sarah, while his wolf, also now undead, moves in for the kill. Out of the Inn rushes another adventurer, who cleaves the zombies head off, while the rest of the group kills the wolf. With that threat now over the group again turns their attention to the glowing orb, hovering over the square.

The orb begins to move a little faster now, dipping closer to the ground. As it moves across the cobblestones of the square they are torn asunder. In its wake the orb leaves a gaping scar in the ground. Then in smashes into Cleftie’s on the southeast corner of the square, obliterating the outer wall and much of the upper portion of the tap-house’s western half. Luckily it is only a tap-house with no sleeping quarters, but much precious beer has been destroyed, oh the humanity!

The group springs into action attempting to destroy the orb before it can cause any more damage, and before it can reach the grave yard, located a block south of Cleftie’s. As the group rushes in the force of the orb pushes them back and makes forward progress difficult. While inside the orb lighting flashes strike out at those inside it. Being inside the orb is like being inside a a magical hurricane. The assaulting arcane energy nearly over comes Thorfin and the others before he figures out that the bell shaped thing they found in the chest is responsible for the orb. After grabbing hold of it he touches the runes, hoping that it may have some effect. Doing so turns the device off and the orb dissipates, leaving the square suddenly quite and dark.

The assembled group, stares at the device in Thorfins hands. “what is that thing?” asks the new comer Ash. “I don’t know” replies Thorfin, but I may know someone who does. “Jason, do you know where Adronsius lives?” asks Thorfin. “Indeed, and let us go quickly” replies the halfling “before the authorities arrive to complicate things”.

The group soon finds themselves outside the city walls on the eastern side of the city. Adronsius’s house is one of the few buildings located outside of town. Due primarily to the common man’s fear of magic and alchemy that Adronsius Firebeard sells and manufactures. After beating loudly on the now one-armed alchemists door the group waits in awkward silence.

The dwarf finally arrives at his front door and upon recognizing Thorfin, and Jason, welcomes the group into his home. The group gets straight to the point, putting the rune covered object on the dwarfs dining table. Which is now wrapped in a blanket as no one in the group is willing to touch it bare handed. Adronsius eyes the device as Jason pulls back the blanket, his brow furrows “Holy!...where did….how….you didn’t….oh you did turn it on didn’t you!”. The group tells him that Erik and his wolf has been zombified and that they suspect that Ruckus was killed and buried in the rubble from Chatrenn and Sons Inn.

Without further comment on the item Adronsius tells Jason to cover it up with the blanket then motions for them to follow him. He leads them down a short halway and to a set of spiral stairs that lead down several flights underground. The group emerges into a large well let workspace and storage area much larger than the dwarfs above ground residence. The dwarf hastily clears off one of his work tables for the halfling to put the device on.

Finally Ondo asks the old dwarf “Clearly you know what this thing is, so please fill us in on the details my good dwarf”. Adronsius explains that the bell-shaped device is an Arcane Engine. “They were devices of great power created by the ancient dwarves who dwelled under the Stonehome mountians, now known as theStonehome Chasm. The ancients used these devices for many purposes, many unknown, but some were used to power elder machines of great power. Others were used to power more mundane things like furnaces, forges, large gates, massive lifts. Only a few dozen have been recovered over the years. Mostly the are now used to power the airships that Salvage Companies in Overlook use”.

Having no need of the device Thorfin and Jason, the two owners of the device trade it to Adronsius for several items in his collection of magic and mundane items. He then tells the group, that the local authorities are likely to be not so understanding about the incident. He advises them to travel to the city of Overlook and lay low for a while. As part of the trade for the Arcane Engine, he will cover the damage expenses to the Inn, the square and the Tap-house. “After everything has been repaired, I’m sure they will forgo any punishment. I will also see to it that Ruckus and Erik receive proper burials”. The old dwarf also draws up a letter of introduction for the group, so that when they reach the city of Overlook they may find work with an old friend of his.

With letter in hand the group sets out by foot before sunrise. They spend the day on the road traveling and then stop and spends the night in the village of Talar. Here they able to secure a wagon and two horses to speed their travel to Overlook.

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Drunken Revelry
The Road to War: Session 8

Down in the taproom the group spends the evening getting rather drunk. Ruckus, being Ruckus, becomes rather boisterous and telling tales that may be a little taller than the dwarf himself. Though not entirely accurate, his tales are entertaining. Nearing midnight the taproom is still full with the patron drinking on late into the night.

A group of five armed men enter the inn and walk to the bar. They order their drinks and listen as Ruckus continues to tell wild stories of the Raiders exploits at Castle Rivenroar. When Ruckus finishes and the crowd quiets down, the leader of this new group of patrons speaks up. “Well, well, if it isn’t old Ruckus Beerfart. Telling lies and getting drunk as usual”. Several of the group and many of the patrons recognize the man. His name is Edgar Sommerfield, the leader of a local adventuring group named the Farstriders. They are probably the most well known such group in the area, but happened to be out of town when the hobgoblins raided. Sommerfield paces the room a bit before he says to the crowd in a loud accusatory voice “Hey Ruckus, why don’t you tell them the story of how you got Attis Blackwood killed, or maybe the one about getting Adrek Brown and Graham Allington killed, or I know, better yet, why don’t you tell them the one about how you got your whole company killed back in the Red Hand war. That should be quite a story”. Ruckus jumped to his feet, clearly ready to smash the mans face in with a tankard, but he was held in check behind Thorfin.

Across the room the bard Ondo calls out, attempting to calm tempers by offering to sing a song, or recite a tale, if everyone sits down. The crowd agrees with Ondo, but nearly everyone in the taproom can clearly see (or knows) that Sommerfield holds a grudge against Ruckus, and most likely will not listen to reason. Thorfin offers to buy the Farstriders a round but Sommerfield merely sneers at him. As it becomes obvious that Sommerfield will settle for nothing less than a fight, patrons begin to creep backwards while Jason the Raven and Erik the White stand up from the table to be counted as Ruckus’ friends.

Sommerfield smiles and says as loudly as possible “I’m pretty sure Ruckus here has killed more men with his stupidity than with his axe”.

Ruckus surges forward trying to get around Thorfin, who then spills his beer on Sommerfield. The two groups of adventurers explode into a flurry of blows. The patrons begin to run out of the building or back themselves against the walls as the two groups face off. From the back of the room the bard Ondo smashes a chair on the wall, then throws the leg across the room at Sommerfield attempting to take the man out quickly in the hopes of preventing a larger brawl. His aim is poor and he hits Sommerfield in the right shoulder. Erik the white and his wolf quickly surrounded one of the Farstriders two rangers and batter him into submission. Ruckus and Thorfin both land a few blows on Sommerfield, then Ruckus smashes the man in the face with the butt of his tankard, knocking out several teeth. Edgar Sommerfield, bloodied and unconscious falls to the floor. On the other side of the table the Raven exchanges a few blows with the Farstriders wizard. The Farstriders ranger attacks Erik, thinking that he is distracted but Erik was merely waiting for the man to make a wrong move and knocks him to the floor. Erik then moves in behind the Farstriders second ranger, who by now has seen that things are not going as planned and has decided to drop to the ground and crawl under a table. Erik lands a great kick in the mans nether region putting him out of the fight. The Farstriders wizard then grabs Jason the Raven and throws him across the table and onto the floor. The wizard is then knocked out by a flying beer mug (or some other object) thrown by the bard Ondo, who then attempts to clobber the Farstrider Dwarf with a chair but misses. Ruckus and Thorfin rain blows upon the poor dwarf, but he just shakes them off. He finally goes down when Jason the Raven manages to get up and smashes him in the head with a bottle.

The Farstriders are drug outside to await the city guard, and the taproom’s patron begin to leave. Ondo, Ruckus and Thorfin each pay the inn owner a bit of gold, enough to cover the damage, and hopefully enough to keep them in the owners good graces. The owner, Henry Chatrenn, takes the money, adding “I never liked that lousy Edgar Sommerfield anyway, about time he got his, been comin’ for a long time. an’ don’t you worry Morgren Ironheart, ‘cause I remember you standing there at the south gate to Brindol, chopping those hobgoblins to shit and back with that axe of yours, and so do plenty of others around here. So don’t you pay him no mind.” With that, the group calls it a night and they head upstairs.

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The Dragon's Splinter
The Road to War: Session 6

(I’m not finished yet, but it may be a while before I get the last little bit done. So I thought I would go ahead and post it.)

After charging out of the wizards lair and back into the crypt filled with skeleton the group made easy work of the feeble skeletons. They then took the time to search the body of the fallen wizard, but not being trained in the arcane arts they are unable to determine if any of his possessions were magical in nature and so decide to take them all to the halfling wizard for a thorough inspection.

As they exit the crypt and enter back into the destroyed church they notice movement in the outer bailey. They quickly take cover and then observe before making a move. They see a group of five humans moving cautiously about about. All of them are dressed in hides and carry rather primitive looking arms and armor. Their leader wears a wolf headdress, clearly he is no warrior but the tribes shaman or a druid. Thorfin sees that the group is nervous and out of place, clearly unfamiliar with their surroundings and figures they have no connection with the hobgoblins of Castle Rivenroar. So he decides to come out of hiding, he hails the group, then tells them “By Moradin’s Hammer, we wish only to fight hobgoblins this day my friends”. The shaman smiles, and replies “it is fine weather for killing hobgoblins longbeard”, and after a brief pause he adds “we come for the same, and to find our people the hobgoblins took during a raid on our village a few days back”.

Thorfin suggests that the two groups take shelter from the cold in one of the towers and discuss matters further. The group catches the Shaman and his warriors up on the events of the day, and the fact that many of the prisoners have been sent on to other locations to be sacrificed. After this, the group returns to the main tower where Reverre and “Ruckus” are still guarding the portal room.

The others learn that while they were in the crypt the Halfling wizard, Reverre, has been busy copying the circles into his book. He tells the group that he has a plan to capture Sinruth. To do so means that he will have to return to Brindol with the guards and the towns people. “Given that we do not know when Sinruth will return we must act quickly” he tells them. “For when you return from rescuing the other prisoners you must destroy the return portal. Meanwhile I will be in Brindol, in the local prison recreating the circle with the help of friends. Once you have returned we will activate this new circle, an exact replica of the original. This way, when Sinruth returns he will teleport into the prison cell, and If we act quickly enough, we might be able to destroy the circle and trap him, then capture him alive.”

Everyone agrees that this plan sounds like a good one, but rescuing the prisoners from two different locations will take time and the group has been pushed to their limits, and besides no one know when Sinruth will return, it could be in two minutes or in two days. The plan is sound they all agree, but complications could arise.

Hellarr tells the rest of the group that while there is not enough time to go after all the prisoners as a single group, it might be possible if they split up. He suggests that it might be best if he went to the goblin camp alone. He could infiltrate easily enough and attempt to locate and rescue the prisoners and return with them to Brindol on foot. “It will not be an easy task, but it is one I feel I must do, to save both the people of Brindol and my own people from he lies and evil plans of Sinruth. If you do not trust me after all I have done this day, then I do not know what will convince you of my honorable intentions, and I will not set out on this task” he tells them.

The group asks Hellarr to step outside while they discuss his plan, as clearly not everyone present trusts the goblin. After he leaves the group discusses his proposal and their options. They then speak with the shaman Ulthgar. They ask him if he would be willing to send some or all of his warriors after Hellarr, they could watch from a distance, hiding in the woods while Hellarr attempts to rescue the prisoners. If he betrays the group or warns the goblins, the warriors could flee back to Castle Rivenroar and then send a messenger to Brindol for reinforcements and of his treachery. Meanwhile, the group will lose the services of Hellarr and Reverre, and could use someone skilled in the art of magic. Ulthgar reluctantly agrees, after all his men are all warriors of the tribe and capable of taking care of themselves. Also, he knows that some of his own people are likely to be at both locations, based on what the group has already told him about the hobgoblins.

Hellarr returns and the group tells him that they agree with his plan, and they send him through the portal alone. They wait nearly a half an hour after he leaves and then send the warriors of the Ulthgar’s clan after him to wait and watch.

The rest of the group beaten and tired from the days fighting agree to take a rest as it is already late in the evening. They return back downstairs after posting a guard in the circle room and find food and drink before getting some sleep. The night is uneventful and they all wake early in the morning, ready their gear and eat. They watch the portal for the first signs of dawn, and when the first rays of the sun break over the horizon they make the jump through the portal to the ancient ruins in an unknown land.

As they step through the teleportation circle the group finds themselves in what remains of an ancient temple. A fierce, unseasonably warm wind whips wildly through their hair and clothes. The force of the wind forces them back a half step before they regain their balance. It is a good thing too, because as they recover, they take the chance to look around and can see that the temple is located on the edge of a sheer cliff that plummets over a 1000 ft. straight down. A quick scan of the horizon reveals that they are at the highest point for as far as anyone can see. There is nothing below them other than what appears to be piles of rubble and sparse areas of vegetation. They realize that they can only be in one place, the Stonehome Chasm. So they quickly move ahead and down the worn and broken steps that lead up to the temple into the grass below before another strong wind can knock them off the cliff. They still have the advantage of height in this facing as well, and judging from the view in this direction, the splinter they are on is probably about 3 to 5 miles in diameter. The hill slopes downward into thick jungle, beyone that lies a steep ridge, and beyond that another jungle covered hill with overgrown ruins.

The grass is thick and obscures the hobs passage but after of bit of searching the Shaman spots the trail. The group then makes its way through the dense jungle for about an half hour following the trail of the hobgoblins. Finally the thick jungle gives way to a small clearing at the base of the ridge they spotted when they arrived. The group stops and takes a short rest, as they sit on an old log they see that at the far end of the clearing there is a old tunnel, it is partially obscured by hanging vines, but clearly visible. The hobgoblin tracks lead toward the tunnel. As they approach the tunnel Ulthgar and Erik both spot a second set of tracks coming in from the right side of the clearing. These tracks head toward the tunnel as well. After a bit of further observation, Erik and Ulthgar determine that the tracks of the 5 humanoids are newer than the hobgoblin tracks, as they overlay the hob tracks in many spots. Ulthgar also spots a set of tracks of a four legged creature with claws, but he and Erik have never seen these type of tracks before and do not know what type of creature made them. These tracks follow the previous set of tracks into the tunnel, but the trail is more sparodic, as if the creature were alternating between walking and leaping, or possibly flying. It appears that this creature is stalking the second group of humanoids.

The group is now quite wary about entering the tunnel, but as they stand in front of the 10ft. wide tunnel they can see daylight on the other end, indicating that it is a straight shot through to the other side of the ridge. The tunnel looks to be several hundred feet long with no debris in the way. The group contemplates climbing over the ridge but after looking up and seeing again how steep it is they decide to go ahead and go through the tunnel, time constraints being what they are.

The group passes through to the tunnel with no problems until they reach the far end. About 50 ft. from the exit they find that a portion of the tunnel looks to have partially collapsed and was shored up at some point. Timbers criss-cross the passageway at awkward angles and in order to move any further down the tunnel the group must pick their way carefully through the timbers. To make matters worse these timbers are rotted and look to be structurally unsound, touching one of them could bring the whole tunnel collapsing down on top of them. Jason takes the lead as he is the smallest and most agile of the group. He attempts to find the easiest way through using his skills as a keen observer and a cat burgler. The dwarves follow behind, using their knowledge of construction to point out to him which beams are load bearing and those which can be moved without causing problems. As they come closer to the end of the tunnel the light of day and the dust on the floor allows them to simply follow the tracks of the two groups who came before them.

The jungle on this side of the tunnel proves to be slightly more hospitable and easier to traverse. The trail is easy to follow and visibility is much greater. After walking a short distance the ground ahead rises slightly and they see, perched on a rock outcropping, with his back to them a red dragon wyrmling. Everyone in the group stops immediately and scans the area to see if there is anything else here, or if the wyrmling is alone as they suspect. The group notices that the wyrmling is watching something or someone rather intently, presumably the group of humanoids it was stalking. With a set of quick hand motions the group communicates with each other that they need to attack before they lose the element of surprise. Thorfin, “Ruckus”, and Jason all charge ahead while Erik covers their charge with several arrows from his bow. Ulthgar begins a chant to summon the spirits of his ancestors to help aid his allies. The group catches the wyrmling off guard and land several blows wounding him. The dragon manages to take flight but does not flee, instead he circles around and as he does, he envelopes the two dwarves and the halfling in a gout of flame. He then uses both of his claws to rake Jason, wounding the halfling badly. Thorfin and “Ruckus” are quick to recover and both land blows on the wyrm. “Ruckus” surprises the dragon by hitting it with his shield and knocking it out of the air. The wrym now desperate, again uses its breath in attempt to kill the group but does not succeed. It is then beaten down by several more blows and killed before it can take to the air again.

After slaying the wyrmling the group catch the sounds of combat off in the distance ahead. The ringing crash of steel on steel, the grunts, groans, curses and the screams of the dying fill the air. When they reach the edge of the cliff in front of them, they can clearly see the combatants below fighting on what appears to be the ruins of an ancient paved road or pathway. To there left is a trail and a barely discernable set of stairs that winds it way down to the far left portion of the old road. A large crack, no doubt caused by the great cataclysm that created the Stonehome chasm, splits the road in two. A rope bridge spans the divide providing access to the other side. To the right, a shorter section of road leads a crumbling set of stone stairs flanked by long destroyed statues. The group to the left is composed of four humans and a dwarf, opposite them are eight goblins and behind them are eight flying drakes. The drakes are tied to various bits stone rubble; saddles, packs, and gear indicate that they are the goblins mounts. Between the two groups lie four dead hobgoblins and six cowering prisoners. The two groups are conversing at sword point in a mix of common and goblin.

It appears that both groups seemed to have surprised the hobs and been surprised by their presence, as if they were unexpected. Each group is accusing the other of working with the hobs in order to ambush the other, but each group seems baffled by the presence of the wimpering crying prisoners. This is probably the only thing keeping them from attacking each other. Jason notices that the humans have a fair sized chest behind them, and that the strange looking goblins have several crude crates with them. He tells the rest of the group “this has all the hallmarks of a shady deal gone bad”, and “I should know” he smiles wrily.

Erik suggests that the group wait and observe for a while, “maybe they’ll kill each other off” he shrugs. The others agree and the group finds better cover to observe the unfolding scene undetected.

After a short while the lead human swordsman grabs one of the prisoners and begins to interrogate her. The group is too far away to overhear the conversation, but after a minute the man smiles and puts his weapon away. His men and the goblins follow suit and they begin to conduct their business. The chest and the crates are brought forward, and each group, in turn, starts to inspects the goods the other brought.

Thorfin and “Ruckus” mutter profanities and tell the rest of the group to get ready to charge in.

Erik and Jason pull the dwarves back down, telling them that they may still have a chance to get these two groups to do their work for them. The others listen to their plan and the group smiles as they move quickly but silently down the old stairs and across the cobble stone road to the jungle beyond. Once there the ranger Erik moves up closer to the edge of the cliff, followed by Jason. Erik checks the angle again and sees that when he fires his arrow at the goblins it should look as though it came from the human archer, who still holds his bow in his hand. Jason hands him one of the goblin arrows he took the day before, “irony” he tells the ranger. Erik lines up the shot again and releases the arrow. It sails across the chasm, past the human archers right shoulder, over the goblin leaders head and strikes the goblin on the stairs just behind him between the eyes. The shaft of the arrow penetrates through the skull and into his brain,the goblin falls forward hitting the goblin leader in the back as he dies. Confused and surprised the goblin leader draws his sword and gives the order to attack, his soldiers are on the humans in an instant. The dwarf with the group is hacked to pieces by three goblins before he can pull his weapon. His companions, being a little further back are able to defend themselves better and after the shock and surprise has worn off, they payback the goblins by killing several of them.

As the two groups fight one another, Erik and Jason both shoot the human archer in the back. The man drops his bow as he flails about trying to pull the arrows from his back. Thorfin joins in and fires several shots from his crossbow as well but ranged combat is not one of his better skills. The leader of the humans covers his second, as the other man grabs the chest and drags it backwards. The goblins likewise retrieve their crates and begin to drag them up the stairs while the other cover them. Quite suddenly the din of combat is drowned out by a loud and ominous roar originating from up the hill directly behind the goblins. The sound gives everyone a moment of pause as they steal a look in that direction to evaluate a possible new threat. In the trees above hundred of birds take flight in a great flock adding to the noise and confusion. The source of the roar is easily spotted though, four red dragon wyrmling come screaming full speed down the hill. Followed by a swarm of winged kobolds flying clumsily in pursuit of their wards. In this moment everything changes, the goblins flee to their drakes and the airship crew across the bridge.

After crossing over the rope bridge the leader of the airship crew cuts the supporting ropes of the bridge. Hoping that the six screaming prisoners would provide an ample distraction to the dragons and delay their pursuit of his crew. Hayden Blackstone, smiled to himself as he turned his back on the helpless, screaming prisoners. So engrossed in congratulating himself on his own brilliant plan, that he was unable to do anything more than stare, as a wild looking man dressed in hide armor ran past him and jumped the span of the chasm. Nor in that instant of confusion, was he able to make sense of the fact that a strange dwarf was now standing over the dead body of his best swordsman, Flint Audeley, clutching a bloody petrified arm? Or that to his right charging out of the jungle was a second dwarf, axe swinging overhead, that was about to end his life.

Ulthgar jumped with all his might, but realized as soon as he was in the air that he would not make the distance. Instead of landing safely on the other side, he hit the edge of the far cliff, knocking the wind out of his lungs. He did manage to grab hold and pull himself up to safety. The pain in his ribs was excruciating though, probably broken, or at the very least cracked. He winced in pain as tried to stand straight.

Jason moved deftly past “Ruckus” who was working his axe back and forth trying to pull it out of the skull of the man who cut the rope bridge. Wasting no time he dropped his pack and pulled out his grappling hook and rope. He threw it down to the bridge below, which had come to rest on a tangle of vines and pulled it back up as far as he could. Soon Erik was beside him with his own rope and hook, using it to pull up the other side of the bridge.

Ulthgar’s spirit helper, if he could be really called a “helper”, chided him for being a weakling. “Shut up you lying old bastard, you said I could easily make that jump with your help” he said to Golgor, before remembering that openly speaking to the spirit of his former mentor and friend tended to make the uninitiated uncomfortable. His priority was to get these people to safety. So he stood up as straight as possible and shouted sternly “come with me, if you want to live”. It wasn’t often that he got to play the role of hero being a tribal shaman he thought to himself, he kind of liked it. He was about to give his best macho pose, but the six, panicked prisoners fled past him onto the rope bridge. As they did so, one of them bumped into his cracked rib and he doubled over in pain instead.

Jason and Erik were just searching for somewhere to tie off their ropes when the six panicked people fled across it with no thought of anything but reaching the other side. The two braced themselves as best they could but six people was to much weight on the bridge at once, and far more than they could hold. The rope burned as it slipped through their fingers but the two dug deep, ignoring the pain as best they could. They were both drug across the old cobble stone road to the edge of the cliff as the bridge and the people on it fell. “Ruckus” and Thorfin each grabbed hold of the ropes and helped stop the momentum of the falling bridge. Then the four heaved up the bridge and its six occupants, bidding them to exit quickly. The shaman, Ulthgar stood up as best he could and ran across the bridge quickly after the others had made it across.

The group seeing that the wyrmlings were almost on them, dropped the ropes and fled into the jungle with the six rescued prisoners. Erik took point to make sure that the group followed the correct trail back, time was of the essence and any mistake could cost them all their lives. Behind him came Jason who kept Erik in sight, but stayed just off the main trail and under cover, and bid those behind him to do the same. “Ruckus” came behind him, followed by the six prisoners. Thorfin, who had stopped only long enough to pick up the airship crews chest and throw it up on one shoulder, was behind them. Ulthgar followed behind them all, using a tree branch to obscure their tracks.

The wyrmlings criss-crossed over the trail looking for what only moments ago had been easy prey. Their shadows giving the group cause for alarm, but the groups measures prevented them from being spotted to easily and they were able to get close to the old tunnel before the wyrms spotted and zeroed in on them.

As they neared the tunnel “Ruckus” remembered that this end of the tunnel was supported by rotted beams and on the verge of collapse. There was no way they could make it through without collapsing the tunnel, not with the dragons on their tails at any rate. In that instant he had an idea, it was crazy he thought to himself, but it just might save them all. He slowed his pace, letting the others pass him by until his was running next to Thorfin. Soon the two dwarves were running with the chest between them. “Slow your pace Erik”, he yelled out. “Let us run through the tunnel first. Then rest of you laggards come in right behind us. Don’t look up…don’t look behind you, just run like the Nine Hells just opened up behind you!” he shouted.

The two dwarves entered the tunnel, chest between them and their shields on the opposite arm. Heads turned to the side, they put the full weight of their shoulders behind their shields and began battering their way through the supporting beams of the tunnel. Suddenly the ceiling began to rumble and shake,dust and small bits of debris began to fall. This was followed shortly by a low rumble that built up to a deafening roar as large peices of stone and debris began to fill the passage under were the support beams had just been. As the lead dragon flew into the opening of the tunnel a thousand tons of stone began to rain down. Not being able to change his course quickly enough he was buried and smashed below the weight of the falling rubble. The other wyrms turned up in time and exploded out of the dust cloud created by the collapsing tunnel. Spotting the goblins just as they were about to clear the ridge, the dragons sped after them in search of easier, less cunning prey.

Covered inside and out with fine gray dust the group exited the tunnel, and alternated between gasping for breath and hacking to get the dust out. When they finished the two dwarves fell to the ground and rolled over onto their backs and both let out a whoop. They lay on ground laughing like insane idiots until Erik and Jason spotted the dragons overhead tearing into the flock of fleeing goblins and their drakes, ripping one then another asunder. While it was a breath taking spectacle aerial prowess to behold, they decided their time would be better spent running to the temple at the top of the hill, instead of watching dragons make sport of goblins.

The group makes it’s way back through the jungle to the ruined temple where they arrived. Just as they break from the cover of the jungle a large shadow crosses their path. The look up and see an airship bearing down on them. The crew of the airship is armed with crossbows and begins to fire at the group. The PC’s flee under the airship and out of harms way. While under the airship Ruckus uses his Blunderbuss to put a large hole in the airships baloon, and Ulthgar the Shaman calls upon vengeful spirits that further damage the ship. The airship out paces the group and as it reaches the top of the hill it slows to a hover and drops off a dozen cut-throats, the begins to circle back around, losing altitude.

The group charges into the airship pirates. As combat ensues the airships captain circles the ship around, trying to bring his cannons to bear before being forced to land. The Raiders of Rivenroar manage to get themselves into position and teleport away before the airship fires it’s cannons. As the PC’s dissapear, the airship lands and dozens of men disembark. One crew sets to repairing the balloon while the other heads up the hill to investigate the teleporation circle.

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The "Thing" below
The Road to War: Session 5

After finding the four teleportation circles in the upper floor of the tower the group takes a rest and discusses their options.

A consensus is finally reached and the party decides to split into two groups. The first will go into the crypt and after the prisoners and the “thing” the hobgoblins mentioned. The crypt is located somewhere near or below the ruined church in the outer bailey but its exact location is unknown. The rescued prisoners, the city guards, Ruckus and the wizard will remain in the tower. The citizens will rest on the third floor while Ruckus and the wizard guard the portal room in case Sinruth should return.

The group heads off to the old church led by Thorfin Hammerfist. The enter the ruins of the church and find that most of the roof has collapsed, but the back 1/3 remains intact. Narrow window along the back wall overlook the valley below. The alter, several sarcophagi, and statues (of all the major deities) survive mostly intact. The alter and sarcophagi are covered with an ancient script and symbols of the Gods, and look to have been broken open and looted long ago. The hobgoblins have added insult to injury by defacing what remains of the statues; knocking off arms, and noses and gouging out eyes. Everything else is scrawled with crude etching in the goblin script, done by bored and spiteful goblins with nothing else to do.

The group approaches the first sarcophagi slowly and carefully. Thorfin reads the runes inscribed on the stone sarcophagi but it bears only the name, date and a brief history of the hero’s life who was once interred in this sarcophagi. Jason “the Raven” Helldelver, searches for any signs of traps or secret switches, levers and such but finds none. They decide to open the sarcophagi and after some effort they do so. They find it empty and uninteresting. They follow the same procedure on the second sarcophagi and find it empty as well. “The Raven” however, finds a secret switch with his at the base of the sarcophagi and activates it. The group hears the sound of stone scraping on stone as the statue of Pelor (to their left) slides backwards, pedestal and all, to reveal a steep narrow set of stairs. The stairs descend into the darkness beyond sight.

Jason quietly follows the stairs down to the landing at the bottom, but without a light source he can see no further than the base of the stairs. The group digs through their packs until “Farmer Bob” comes up with a torch and a flint and steel. They light the torch and descend warily into the crypt.

Now at the bottom of the stairs, and with sufficient light, they can all see that at the base of the stairs is a small landing, a cramped narrow tunnel leads off to the north. Jason makes a quick check for traps but finds none. So the group moves ahead with Jason and Thorfin in the lead. Halfway down the tunnel they can see a set of doors ahead. Thorfin suddenly feels the floor shift below his right foot. The sound of stone scraping on stone fills the tunnel and the group turns in time to see a large stone seal the tunnel behind them. In the now quite tunnel they can hear the sound of hundreds of tiny claws on stone and shrill squeaking of ravenous rats. The rats fill the tunnel swarming over everyone in the group. Their gnashing teeth and razor sharp claws cause little damage on an individual basis but as a group the rats are causing the group serious problems. Luckily Hellarr manages to kill a large number of the rats by freezing them with a spell or two, while the others pick them off one at a time. A few minutes later, covered with bites and scratches, but alive and vermin free, the group reaches the set of doors at the end of the tunnel.

The large set of metal covered doors, with intricate detail work depict numerous grizzly scenes of torture, and motifs of death and destruction.

Jason checks the doors and finds them to be locked but untrapped. He gets his tools out of his pack and sets to work picking the lock. Engrossed in this task, he barely has time to react when the doors are suddenly unlocked from the other side and yanked open. A goblin blade lashes out at his head and he ducks under the slashing blow just in the nick of time.

Thorfin surges forward and breaks up the goblins formation, while Jason slips to the side and the rest of the group moves in. The four goblins find themselves no match for the group. Two are quickly cut down and the other two flee towards the back of the room into the darkness. The first goblin runs by an alter located in the center of the room. He shrieks in pain, the flesh on his hands and face wither and his dessicated body falls to the floor. On the other side of the room, the second goblin get closer to the door, avoiding the alter, but is run down and killed by the group.

After combat is finished the group takes a look around the room their light reveals a large, long room with a high arched ceiling approximately 40 ft. high. Along both walls are niches every 5 ft. from floor to ceiling, they filled with the bones of Rivenroar family members from countless generations. In the center of the room is the family alter, it is covered with blood and the lifeless corpse of a young man. At the far end of the room is a second set of intricately detailed metal doors.

It is now plain to Thorfin that the Rivenroar family was secretly worshipers of Vecna, and that the alter is tainted by his evil stench. Wary that the dead might rise the group moves quickly to the second set of doors.

ThingbelowThe doors are unlocked and and open easily and with little noise. The room is dimly lit by sever braziers. At the far end of this room at a dining table sits what appears to be a man with blackened skin. His white hair is mostly gone and the skin on his face is waxy and leathery, with spots of white and bright red and is covered with pockmarks caused by severe blisters. He stops eating as they enter the room, puts his knife and fork down and wipes his mouth with a silk napkin. They notice on the plate in front of him is the severed and uncooked arm of a dwarf, who just happens to be laying in the far corner, bleeding and unconscious. Next to him an older woman rocks herself hugging her knees to her chest and singing a soft eerie lullaby. The man takes a sip of wine then dons a helmet that hides his hideous face behind a metal faceplate and eye lenses of smoked glass. “Excuse me” he says, “I was not expecting dinner guests…but there is plenty to eat if you care to dine with me.”

Without a word the group moves slowly and cautiously down the entryway and into the room. The distance between them and the man is to far to cover without exposing themselves to attack before reaching him. The man suddenly disappears, the area around him becomes unnaturally dark. Jason and Erik both fire arrows into the adversaries last known position, but no cries of pain or dull thud of the arrow finding its mark can be heard. In fact, their arrows make no sound at all once they enter the cloud of darkness. If they missed they should have shattered against the back wall (both arrows hit the bookcase behind the target). The group creep cautiously ahead, even more unnerved than before.

Out of the darkness erupts a ball of flame that lands in the middle of the group and explodes. Everyone in the group except Jason is badly burned in the blast, who quickly reacts and moves out of the narrow entryway but runs into a goblin who was hiding around the corner. The two combatants exchange a furious series of vicious blows. A second goblin rushes from hiding on the right and attacks “Farmer Bob”. The rest of the group moves forward and Thorfin charges across the room. A gout of flame suddenly engulfs him. As the flames dissipate his clothes and hair are smoldering, his face and hands blistered, but the angry dwarf runs headlong into the cloud of darkness.

A second sphere of flame erupts from the darkness, but it moves about the room slower, and more purposefully than the first. The sphere zigzags across the room burning “Farmer Bob”, Hellarr and Jason all in turn. Erik and his wolf take down the goblin who had ambushed Tem (“Farmer Bob”). Then turn their attention toward the goblin locked in combat with Jason. Tem now free to maneuver around to help Jason, he catches the goblin off guard and runs him through with his longspear.

Thorfin’s gambit works and the pyromancer is flushed out of the dark cloud he was hiding in. He moves toward the door but is quickly intercepted and surrounded. Several well placed blows and slashing cuts drop the pryomancer to one knee. Just when Throfin is about to deliver the final blow, the pyromancer releases a burst of arcane force, fire and rage. The assault burn everyone in the group and the force of the rage and energy pushes them all just out of reach of the mage.

Except for Thorfin that is. Thorfin yells “you can burn a dwarf but you can’t push him out of a fight you ugly bastard”! Then from Thorfin’s Hammer, The Stone Hand of Brother Tiderious the Rightious, a bright light pulses, sending a wave of healing energy across the room. This helps soothe the burns of his comrades and steadies their nerves.

The fiery assault passed almost harmlessly through Jason “The Raven”. His Spectral Kurkri saved him from the burning flames by turning him into a ghostly visage of his normal self.

Suddenly the mage is gone, simply popping out of existence. He just as suddenly reappears next to the door, laughing he shuts it. The sound of the pyomancer locking the door prompts Jason into action. In his ghostly form he runs across the room and the entry way passing through and beyond the door before returning to his normal form. The room beyond is completely dark and so Jason lashes out with his Kukri in the last place he knew the pyromancer to be. His Kukri connects, slicing deep into flesh. He is sprayed with blood as the mage falls lifeless to the floor. Unable to see, Jason drops to the floor and pats the mages corpse in an attempt to find the key. As he is doing so, he hears the sound of bone and leather scraping on stone and low, unnatural moans from further down the crypt. The hairs on his neck stand up as he desperately searches the floor for the key, then suddenly realizes that the key might still be in the door. It is, and he unlocks the door and throws himself through it in one quick motion. The light of the pyromancer’s chamber floods into the crypt and reveals dozens of undead skeletons shuffling their way toward the door. Several mere feet away, arms out stretched, grasping for the halfling. Who just as quickly as he had opened the door, slams it shuts and locks it behind him.

Now safe in the chamber the group heals the one armed dwarf and tries to comfort the woman. The dwarf gives his thanks to Thorfin through gritted teeth. He then tells them, he is Adronsius an alchemist from Brindol.

The rest of the group searches the room thoroughly for another exit. It is now apparent to all present that the room was formerly the Rivenroar family’s temple / church dedicated to Vecna, their true God. After half an hour of searching the group realizes that there is no other exit. They are sealed in a church dedicated to Vecna and behind the door, the only exit, are at least two dozen undead skeletons. So after a short discussion the come up with a plan, not a very good one by all accounts, but a plan none the less. So they sharpen their weapons, get into formation, steel their nerves and throw open the doors.

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The Road to War: Session 3

After the unfortunate bridge incident the PC’s decide to push on despite the damage the trap inflicted.

They enter the outer bailey of the ruined castle. Before them lies the ruins of an ancient town that once thrived within the castle walls. All that survives now though are a few ruined buildings, piles of rubble and the back half of the old church. The entire scene is covered by several inches of snow and the cold north wind drives snow into the faces of the PC’s. Numerous sets of track are evident in the soft snow. Three sets of tracks lead off toward the old church, while the others, perhaps as many as six or seven lead through the old guard towers (on the PC’s right) and into the inner bailey. In hushed voices the group discusses their next move, when Erik the White sees movement in one of the arrow slits of the right tower, on the upper level.

The figure bolts and commands in goblin can be heard. Luckily for the group, Helarr (the goblin druid) just happens to be fluent in goblin. He informs the party that the commands they hear are for the other goblins to lower the portcullis. Shortly after this the portcullis, an old ad hoc thing built by the hobgoblins, begins descending. The PC’s run forward and into the inner bailey before it can be fully lowered.

RagedrakeOnce inside the goblins lower the portcullis into position, blocking the PC’s escape. The group takes a quick look around and notices that the hobgoblins have repaired sections of the tower and the walls of the inner bailey and replaces the long missing doors of the towers with new, stout wooden doors made of oak. The inner bailey itself consists of a large single courtyard, that has been cleared of all debris. In the center lies a woman chained to a large stake. From the two towers on the far side of the inner bailey comes a loud and ominous roar, followed by the creaking sound of the second portcullis on the far towers being raised. From which pours dozens of small drakes , and a Rage Drake. The PC’s discern that they have been tricked again.

The battle with the drakes is short but vicious. Helarr is nearly killed, saved only because Brother Hammerfist’s timely aid. The rest of the group is badly battered and they take a short rest, while Brother Hammerfist checks out the unconscious woman in the center of the courtyard. She is still alive, but barely and he administers first aid as best he can. From the far towers of the inner bailey comes a great host of hobgoblins (okay, only 20). The emerge from the towers and with the discipline of well trained soldiers the form up into a phalanx and begin their grim march across the courtyard towards the group. While the goblins in the towers behind the group begin firing arrows down upon them.

Hellarr, quickly launches two vials of alchemist fire into the ranks of hobgoblins. In an instant, over a dozen of the hobgoblins are ablaze, their ranks and discipline disintegrate. The confusion allows Robert “Farmer Bob” Stoneboiler, Ruckus Ironheart and Brother Hammerfist to close in and engage the hobgoblins left flank, instead of meeting them head on. At the same time Erik the White and Jason the Raven engage the goblins in the opposite tower with ranged attacks. The few remaining goblins and hobgoblins are brought down in short order.

The majority of the group sets about the grisly task of removing ears and searching bodies for loot. They discover 120 gp, a Spiked Helm and a Hobgoblin Warblade. Brother Hammerfist and Helarr go to the aid of the chained woman. She is revived and provided with clothing to protect her from the cold. The group decides that she would be a liability and should be sent back to the camp that the city guards are preparing. She is escorted to where the horses are located and told to head for the camp, which the PC’s point out from the their current high vantage point. She seems unsure and is more than a little frazzled, and uncomfortable with Hellarr’s presence, but she is reassured that it is only a short trip and very safe. Brother Hammerfist and Hellarr rejoin the rest of the group at the Inner Bailey.

A quick check beyond the second set of towers reveals has revealed yet another bridge (this one stone and in good shape), and a pair of guards on the far end. Behind them a pair of small square towers and adjoining that, a large round tower.

Erik the White decides to rush forward and fire off an arrow across the windswept bridge. Amazingly enough it hits, it does little damage but does alert the guards, who in turn alert their comrades. They are soon joined by two more guards and a shaman who were in the left hand tower. The hobgoblins rush across the bridge and but can not cover the distance in one turn. Erik and Jason both fire arrows at the oncoming hobgoblins but both miss. Ruckus and Tem charge into the hobgoblins front ranks stopping the advance. Helarr, with the wave of his hand increases the velocity and bitter cold of the wind. The two front most hobgoblins are blown off the bridge by the force of the wind. Only one manages to grab hold but is quickly killed by a blow to the head by Ruckus. The hobgoblin shaman retaliates in kind and attempts to push Ruckus and “Farmer Bob” over the edge of the bridge with a force spell. Stoneboiler is knocked down and slides backward several feet before catching himself. Ruckus, a stalwart dwarf does not budge. With a second wave of his hand, Hellarr sends the shaman plummeting over the edge of the bridge and to the rocks below. Ruckus and Brother Hammerfist cut down the third hobgoblin while the last one turns and runs. He too, is cast over the edge by the druid Helarr.

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The Road to War, session 2

Session two of the campaign finds our heroes journeying through the wilderness to track down the hobgoblins of the Red Hand of Doom and rescue the 17 persons taken during the raid on Brindol.

The character spent the night helping to put out the more than 2 dozens burning buildings in Brindol. In the early morning hours finished with this task and exhausted from the effort each finally finds a nice out of the way place for a short rest and end up falling asleep. Just before noon they are awakened by a passing wagon, loaded with a families worldly goods and heading out of town. A local woman takes pity on them and brings them a hot meal and informs them that a town hall meeting is about to get underway. The purpose of the meeting is to calm peoples fears about a rumor that the raid was only a scouting party and that an army of a thousand hobgoblins is on its way, mere days away.

The characters arrive at the packed Church. Hundreds have arrived to hear the council members speak. The characters push their way further into the crowd so that they can hear what is taking place. Councilman Eofram Troyas is trying to calm the angry mob who blames him for the ease of which the hobgoblins overran any resistance because of the recent reduction of armed men in Brindol’s city guard, a cost cutting measure he introduced. Thus reducing the city guard from 200 members to only 100. The councilmen quickly and deftly switches the subject, pointing out the PC’s and introducing them as the heroes of Brosby square, who killed a dozen raiders by themselves and an ogre included. The crowd gives a collective cheer for the characters and their actions the night before. A man in the crowd shouts out “how do we know there are not more a comin’?” The councilman replies that scouts were sent out in all directions this morning and have reported that no army is in the immediate vicinity, further more, more scouts are ranging further afield but the council still awaits their reports. The crowd is uneasy. Ruckus Ironheart shouts out to the crowd “those cowards from last night weren’t of the Red Hand and there ain’t no army of hobgoblins. I know a lot of you were born after the war, but I wasn’t. I fought the Hand at Bloody Gap! and at the Siege of Brindol. Those morons from last night were flying the Red Hand banner upside down. Probably found it buried somewhere and just using it to make y’all wet yer pants!” The crowd quits down until a voice far in the crowd shouts out. “you sure you weren’t just lying upside down, drunk in the gutter as usual?” The crowd laughs. The councilman speaks again, telling Ruckus that he is probably right, but the city cannot take that chance. All of the city guards will remain in town, bolstered by the militia, in the event that it is needed. His plan is to find a group of volunteers that will track down the raiders and ascertain if they are indeed more organized and stronger in numbers than the 100 or so raiders. If so this group will return to Brindol and help defend it. If the hobgoblins are mere raiders, then this group will attempt to overpower the hobgoblins and rescue the citizens taken prisoner. He then puts out a call for volunteers. Ruckus asks “what’s the pay?” A now angry crowd boos the dwarf. Councilman Troyas tells him, “compensation is probably best discussed in private”. Further back in the crowd Tem Stoneboiler, a local peasant who was present at the Battle of Brosby Square, and killed a hobgoblin with his billhook, is first to volunteer. He is soon joined by the rest of the PC’s, and a halfling warrior. A group of city guards pushes it’s way into the crowd and escorts the volunteers away.

A lone priest approaches the group and tells Brother Hammerhand that the Archbishop wishes to speak with him, and the two head off to Archbishop Skern’s office. The Archbishop informs him that the church is going to officially sanction his participation in this endeavor. The Archbishop discloses to Brother Hammerhand that he has reason to believe that the hobgoblin raiders may be allied with more sinister masters, though he can not disclose the source of this information. In order to aid Brother Hammerhand in this quest the church grants him the use of a relic, The Stone Hand of Brother Tiderious the Rightious. A holy weapon of no small fame, formerly used to battle the Red Hand during the war by Sister Agnes Hammersmith. The weapon is a mace consisting of the petrified arm and spiked gauntlet of Brother Tiderious. The Archbishop bids him to take good care of the relic and himself, and that he eagerly awaits his report.

After settling on a price for the return of the kidnap victims and a bounty on goblin ears. Councilman Troyas, more than mildly disgusted by their greed, arranges for horses and supplies for the group. Four city guards will also accompany them on the mission. As they are about to leave he also informs them, that the guards captured one of the goblin raiders, and that if they wish to question the goblin before he is hung or torn apart by an angry mob they may do so.

The character interrogate the goblin who claims not to be a member of the raiders. Well, not until a week ago, when they attacked his village and enslaved his people. He claims he had no choice, he would have been killed by the hobgoblins if he didn’t go along. He is also willing to take the PC’s to the hobgoblins lair, Castle Rivenroar, if they save him. The characters talk it over and reluctantly agree. The halfling new comer turns to the guards and hands them a rolled up piece of parchment, “we have orders from councilman Troyas to take the goblin with us”. The guards, being illiterate and unaware of what is written on the parchment, agree.

The group quickly sets off out of town before their ruse is discovered. By now it is mid-day and the group travels four hours until the sunsets. They stop and make camp for the night. In the morning the continue on. Tracking nearly 70 humanoids is an easy task. They soon find a small copse of trees near the road to Red Rock where the raiders stayed the night. The group then follows the trail northwest along the road for a short while, where they come upon an old abandoned farmhouse. A wagon sits in the middle of the road burning several bodies are strewn about it. In a field just to the west of the wagon they find two more bodies, on lets out a moan. The Brother Hammerhand rushes to help the man. When he comes around a long low stone fence he scares two goblin archers out of hiding. They each fire an arrow and flee north up the road. The PC’s give pursuit and when the are just north of the wagon a group of hobgoblins hiding on the other side of the eastern wall attack. Up the road two riders on horseback and one mounted on a wolf break cover in the trees ahead and charge down the road. After a long and bitter fight the PC’s prevail, but only after being trampled numerous times.

The halfling they saved, who was shot in the back trying to warn the passing wagon of the hobs ambush, is sent back to town with one of the city guards. They bury the others, 3 of them are unknown to them, but the last is a dwarf from Brindol named Danik Stonecutter.

They soon find themselves back on the trail after the raiders. The ambush to discourage anyone from following the main force was a failure. After two more days of traveling the characters are now deep within the Giantshield Mountains. As if the altitude were not enough, snow and extreme cold dog the PC’s but they were prepared and brought winter clothing.

Finally they reach the high alpine valley in which Castle Rivenroar sets. Once used to guard this mountain pass it is little more than a ruin. The PC’s find a suitable camp site and set the city guards to making camp while they scout out the castle.

They discover that it sits at the end of long steep ridge. The northern, southern and western approaches are 300 ft. sheer cliffs, covered with ice. The eastern approach is through the old moat house. A 50’ deep ravine to it is traversed by a narrow stone bridge. Part of which has collapsed and been replaced by a wooden log bridge constructed by the Red Hand. In the left tower the corpse of Garrick Sanburne hangs by the neck, from a rope thrown over the remains of the wall, several ravens peck the flesh from his corpse. In the right tower, two hob guards huddle around a small fire.

The halfling warrior (rogue) attempts to sneak across the bridge. At halfway across to goblin archers hidden in the shadows of the upper portion of the tower attack. The halfling flees back across to safety. While the rest of the party charges across the bridge. The wizard and the goblin, Helarr take out one of the goblin archers with ranged attacks. The hobgoblins then jump up and place themselves at the end of the bridge and wait. They taunt the charging characters and hold their ground. When the characters are on the wooden portion of the bridge the hob on the left swings his hammer, hitting the ground, or rather the lynch pin holding the dead-fall log under the bridge, free. The dead-fall log falls and pulls out the pin holding the bridge together and it swings out from under the PC’s (4 plus a wolf companion). Brother Hammerhand catches himself and then grabs Ruckus as he tumbles by, saving the other Dwarfs life. Tem Stoneboiler holds tight and attempts to catch Erik the White’s wolf but to no avail. Both Erik and the wolf fall into the ravine below and land with a sickening thud. The wolf is unconscious and Erik nearly so, both are nearly killed by the fall. The wizard casts a Force Orb (I think) on the two, now laughing, hob guards. They are pulled over the edge but both manage to catch on and save themselves. Erik shoots one from below, the hob looses his grip and falls to his death, landing only feet from Erik. The wizard then magic missiles the other guard and he fall to his death as well. The second goblin archer escapes down the back of the tower, and runs to warn his comrades. The halfling uses a grappling hook to grab the end of the swinging bridge and the party pulls it up while the halfling climbs underneath the bridge and secures it with a pin that can not be pulled or knocked free from above. The ranger stabilizes his wolf and he climbs out of the ravine while his wolf is pulled back up by rope.

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