Kingmaker

Session 27 - The Harrowing
In which the victorious army marches home, brothers are "reunited", and the party has their fortunes read

A shell-shocked party exits the cave, divvying up available loot while simultaneously celebrating their victory with a battered but victorious army. Then, of course, the march home, where Joan and a small group of medics strive to heal the wounded- Mason lending his assistance. The town is joined in celebration, with the Nest bar hosting the biggest portion of the party (although the streets in general are alight with festivities by grateful / relieved citizens and militia).

Count Rocca Marina shows up personally to reward them on behalf of Restov for their glorious efforts in the hinterlands, as he puts it, and lathers on praise so thick it’s palpable. He enjoys his stay in Redemption for a few days, patronizing the local shops and talking to folks, no doubt working on his networking, before heading back home to organize transportation of goods and building supplies to Redemption, which will arrive in two weeks.

In the aftermath, a letter arrives from an envoy of the fae to the west, encouraging Mason, Brand, Finch, Em’Rel, Thune, and Reeves to attend a New Year’s party of sorts, signed by the Dancing Lady. The letters are all magical in nature, and convey messages with unnatural speed assuring them that no ill will happen while in her domain. Suspicious but curious, everyone agrees to go.

Deep in the woods, they find a ruined tower with no signs of inhabitation- at least, that’s what everyone else sees, but not Finch, who can see fae milling about inside as well as a small, grey, dapper fellow picking at his teeth with a dagger. He can tell she sees him, and Rigg the quickling servant beckons her forth with a cockney accent and wickedly jovial grin. As the gates are opened and the group ushered in, they all can see what’s going on, which is a large fae party, complete with quicklings, treants, two trolls, other brightly colored beings they don’t recognize, and two familiar individuals- Perlivash and Tyg Tigger Tut! Finch pets Perlivash as they get acquainted with the area, have some drink, and generally try to play it cool.

Upon being invited into the tower proper, Rigg leads them up the stairs within to the Dancing Lady, an immaculate fae figure of note in the region, who dances to a barely perceptible tune in an entrancingly beautiful way. Finch joins in for a bit, before the Dancing Lady’s voice hauntingly addresses them, congratulating them on the victory in battle not long ago, and asking for her ‘Uprising’ card back (which was taken by Hragulka) in return for harrow fortune’s read, a question each, if they so desire, and that this favor is her way of repaying a debt to another, a nature-loving friend of the main characters, Finch in particular. “…Yuuvitza?” she asks, but is unanswered.

Finch is ambiguously warned about danger, but not specifically that it comes from Asmodeus. Murky warning is murkily unappreciated. Something’s out there, set against them, but who knows what?

Most notably, and surprisingly to the others, Mason asks what befell his wife- and in a passing over past, present, and future, the Dancing Lady reveals that the cards say she is indeed dead at the hands of werewolves, and not, as he may have hoped, secretly a werewolf somewhere, where he might be able to yet save her. She further muses that his desire to build on the frontier, and build in general, may be his own way of trying to stay productive and build a new foundation over a destroyed relationship that cannot be rebuilt. She adds that soon, he will make a major life decision that will influence the rest of his life.

REWARDS and LOOTS
-1000xp (or 250xp each) for maintaining peaceful repose within the Fae land.
-Count Rocca awarded each leader 2000gp for defending Restov’s borders.
-Restov would send building materials and funds for the building of a proper Cemetary to honour Solace’s dead, as well as to finish off the Barracks construction.
-Count Rocca will use Brand’s 2000gp above to instead locate an owlbear trainer and pay him to train Mordu.

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Session 26 - The Troll War: Downfall of an Uprising
In which Hragulka's inner sanctum is invaded, and many die in fire.

Tilly and Jeff of the guard are sent around the hills to discern if there are any side exits or entrances to the stronghold, while the army regroups and bandages their wounded- almost seventy of the original two hundred and some lie dead or wounded, with many flesh wounds besides. Reeves immediately begins putting up a bulwark, while Finch scouts in close to the front door, managing to get right up to the ‘lobby’ as it were for a peek at two brainless trolls doing a poor job at keeping a watch at the front. In their defence, Finch is really hard to see when she doesn’t want you to see her. Mason is distracted by a curious circle of stones near the remains of this dwarven stronghold, having been cluttered by trolls but not destroyed- the markings, which Sarthaal helps him with, depicting a story of an ancient dwarven outpost whose dead were buried sacredly beneath the very monument Mason stood on. Most importantly, it does not seem to be some sort of summoning circle, as their instincts are that those are almost always going to be very bad things, and it’s good that demons or devils aren’t going to appear right next to them.

Up top, Jeff and Tilly summon assistance as a backdoor up top near the front of the stronghold is discovered- and reinforcements barely arrive before a troll tries to emerge, which they immediately stomp on, and surprised, it soon falls. A large rock is rolled onto it in the meantime, until the main party of Finch, Sarthaal, Mason, and Brand are ready to go. Slidoo, two braves, Tilly, Hemmet, Jeff, and Sarthaal’s kobold bodyguards join them as they begin the invasion via the back entrance up top, which is actually a chimney that leads down into the stone structure. Caked in troll filth, it appears to have been used as a latrine, and they do not tarry here long before they find themselves in the lobby room. Attacked by an eager group of trolls, the pitched battle begins with a war of attrition inwards, until they reach the central room filled with trolls- an initial fright that proves to be less terrifying than the level of command Sarthaal has over fire. Using most of his remaining spellpower, he bathes the room in flame, and more or less singlehandedly ends the lives of seven trolls in an inferno of twenty seconds.

Whimpering in a side ‘meat locker’ room filled with humanoids is Jubilost Narthropple, an enslaved gnome who not only thought he was going to die but half-hoped for it to end his torment as the trolls primary slave- the rest of his band having been eaten over the previous year in front of him, and leaving him a broken man. He is escorted out with Tilly, who returns with a vanguard of uninjured soldiers and Reeves to guard their rear as the main attack force presses on. Dwarven halls make way to carved rock enclosures and natural caverns, with a few troll stragglers falling to the stronger force. They are surprised from behind as a two headed troll rounds the corner behind them to kill two of Sarthaal’s kobolds, and in a risky maneuver a spell-less Sarthaal lobs a potion of love into Nagrundi’s roaring mouth. Even more luckily, the effect actually takes hold, and Nagrundi becomes Sarthaal’s new best friend, trying to get his troll compatriots to stop trying to hurt them!

This traitorous act earns only contempt from Hragulka from his rickety throne of a wagon, rising to swear vengeance upon them for crushing his uprising. Over his shoulder, a purple kobold sorceror sits in a circle of power through which a mysterious vibrant light flows, and the party sees a troll disappear through the magical portal. As the rest of the party roars to do battle with Hragulka and his rock troll bodyguard, Finch sneaks off to the portal, leaping in to sneak attack the helpless magical kobold who she recognizes vaguely as having been Tartuk of the Sootscales. Oddly, upon striking him down, he gasps in surprise, and she sees him both as a kobold and as an angry, purple haired gnome, while beyond him she sees trolls skulking into too-vibrant bushes beneath a too-blue sky that hurts her eyes. With Tartuk dead, the portal closes, snapping the magical energies shut in a manner that frizzes Finch’s hair and nearly makes her vomit as she falls over on the floor on THIS side of the portal.

Nagrundi’s assurances don’t stop Hragulka in the slightest, and after a few moments of struggle feels the portal close behind him, destroying any hope of escape. Shrieking with rage, and that “She PROMISED!”, he activates his fireball necklace, letting loose an inferno that fills the entire room with flame of an intensity perhaps only matched by Sarthaal’s explosions earlier. The effect is monumental, as Hragulka and his own troll at his side detonate spraying chunks of burning troll around the room. Mason is nearly killed, taking the brunt of the blast, and hangs on only by the skin of his teeth. Slidoo, the kobolds, and the three guards from Redemption are no more. Hastily, Brand feeds Mason a potion to bring him to the side of the living, and looks around the room. The four of them are the only ones still alive, and the victory of their battle has been earned not only by their prowess but by the lives of their loyal subjects. Listlessly, they scavenge the room for clues, including both equipment, and a mysterious harrow card marked ‘Uprising’ from Hragulka’s corpse, before emerging as the lone survivors to a cheering army.

REWARDS
7000xp each from trolls, troll hounds, a rock troll, Nagrundi, and Hragulka. LEVEL 7 achieved!
-1484cp, 5686sp, 2129gp throughout the complex.
-Nagrundi’s Amulet of Natural Armor +2
-Dusty Rose Ioun Stone (+1AC insight bonus)
-Hragulka’s +1 darkwood thundering morningstar
-Small dragon statue (300gp), gold necklace w/jade pendant (500gp), gold jewellery set (750gp)
-5 gemstones (100gp each), 3x fine wine bottles (15gp each), 1 engraved silver tankard (50gp).
-1 Harrow Card (The Uprising).
-Chunks of rock troll skin.
-Finch’s eyes sometimes glitter with green and yellow light, now…

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Session 25 - The Troll War : Onward Soldiers
In which the battle for Redemption begins.

While on the march southwest, the assembled army is met up at the gates by a small cache of Maegar Varn’s cavaliers who pledge to help ‘save their sister barony in their hour of need’. Their aid is accepted, as is that of a group of Azureclaw braves led by Slidoo, who point out that they have been harassed by the trolls as well and have lost many braves. With an army to match up with, they will not be left merely begging for help of their neighbors, and join the cause with assurances of alliance should the battle go in their favor.

By the time they make camp to the northeastern reaches of Hragulka’s domain, the army masses two hundred militia men and women, ten cavaliers, ten lizardfolk braves, and of course the ace in the hole of Sarthaal, Brand, Finch, and Mason. Bokken’s alchemical fire plays backup assistance in limited quantities.

Swooping to the east, the army charged a hill standing between them and the stronghold, with trolls raining rocks and boulders down the slope, taking out a number of the attackers before the mass could sweep the top of the hill, and surround and pummel and overwhelm the three trolls there. At the top, they had a good vantage of the battlefield as a whole, and sent the lizardfolk south to use the water line as an approach up the river, while the cavaliers rode to the north- which created a surrounding flanking maneuver. The real battle began in earnest as the bulk of the army charged forth, wading into the trolls and shielding themselves from the slings and spears of Bloodscale kobold defenders. Many men were ripped to shreds by the trolls’ talons, but the smaller number of trolls though mighty were steadily torn down as the army marched towards the troll village. They were spared some loss as Reeves sensed a trap at the head of the army, a kobold pitfall that would have claimed the front ranks, before leading them around.

In the center of the village, lizardfolk attacked surprised kobolds who were already being eaten by Finch’s daggers, while cavaliers rode in to attack the fresh trolls. In the wake of all this mayhem, Hragulka stormed the field, each swipe of his massive morningstar claiming a new kill until with a roar he demanded to meet the leader of this rag tag army face to face. As usual, though he pledged temporary parlay, Sarthaal was the first to break even the illusion of a break in the fighting by burning Hragulka with a scorching ray. Hragulka replied in kind with a magical necklace, unleashing a lobbing ball of flame that would have wounded a score of men were it not for Mason’s timely act of Quenching magic, diffusing it in the air. Sounding a retreat, the trolls fled into the stronghold, with three-fifths of their number dead, and the kobold slaves either fled or dead.

REWARDS
2000xp each from your army’s defeat of the troll warband.
-Brand found a golden bracer amongst the troll corpses worth hundreds of gold.

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Session 24 - Dreamtouched
In which nightmares plague the night, and Solace marches to war.

Three months have passed since the events from the previous session, where troll attacks have been getting more prevalent and turning the woods from somewhat dangerous to very dangerous. In this time, war bonds and other creative financials by Oleg have funded not only some reconstruction effort from the giant owlbear attack, but most importantly towards the wall of Redemption. A massive skeleton of a wall, made of wood and stone, that encircles the city and its environs- a works project that has kept a lot of people busy both night and day. It’s morale boost is palpable, however, as Solace’s citizens are doing something productive about the defence of their new barony from outside forces. What little remains has gone towards restoring the shrine at the Temple of the Elk, with Mason and Joan directing the venture, as the churches of Torag and Erastil work together based on their similarities rather than their differences.

War is coming, and the rising troll threat to the southwest needs to be dealt with as Reeves, Brand, and Gawain train nearly two hundred fresh recruits and guard leaders in the arts of warfare, outfitting them with simple swords, shield, and armor. During this time, a copacetic Bokken is working on a special order of alchemist’s flame for both the ruling strike team, and some for the army as well, to take advantage of troll weaknesses. Everyone knows you can also cut off their head, but that’s not really a weakness, is it? That’d kill just about anyone.

Through the power of tailored narrative, it is not immediately apparent, but each member of the party is undergoing their own haunted dreams and nightmares, though Mason is touched first two night’s previous (perhaps due to his divine attunement?), and he rushes to Redemption on horseback from the newly restored Temple of the Elk to relate his unsettling dreamscape to his allies.

Their dreams were as follows…

Finch: She is awoken in the middle of the night by a horror of devils, as her and Reeves are caught nude in their bedchamber by a spiked devil who emerges from the portal. Though she tries to defend him, and he her, Reeves is killed, his blood flowing freely after screaming for Finch to get to safety. Outside, screams of terror are heard alongside the sight and smell of hellish flame. Her Nest is not safe, her lover is dead, and a devil of Asmodeus has come for her. “You are not safe!”

Mason: He is present at the scene of the temple, blessing and consecrating the holy tree within the stone cavern alongside Joan, who channel their divine and natural magics together into the heavenly flora they’ve planted. Mason looks down at his hands, and realizes that the base of the tree has become corrupt. Black and sickly green veins churn up into the root structure, as the earth itself seems to rebel against the tree, poison spreading up the tree despite Mason and Joan’s best efforts to neutralize it. Horrofied, Mason sees that the poison has spread to Joan, her eyes glowing an unearthly green. Looking to himself, the brackish colour of poison spreads to his hands, infecting him as well. Lurching outside, he sees fire burning in the distance where Redemption lies. “All you build is not meant for this world!”

Brand: As the city walls are attacked by an army of trolls, Brand rouses to face the surprise attack, putting his armor on as hastily as possible as he marches to the wall where Redemption’s defenders are dying. There are already some hostiles within the town, though, as Brand hears screams of terror emerge from within a local home. Rushing in, he finds a scene of gore, as a father lays split in two by claws, and a mother bleeding out against the wall. A young boy’s cries are heard upstairs, and Brand rushes up to find a troll holding it in its claws. Even as he commands the beast to put down the child, the troll raises the boy’s leg to his pointed mouth, and bites his leg off. Screaming, Brand attacks the troll, beating and fighting and stabbing until it’s decapitated body falls limp. The boy is silent. “You cannot save everyone!”

Sarthaal: War is at Redemption’s walls, and Baron Sarthaal rides to defend it with his much-feared flame- especially by the trolls. Their numbers are beyond what they foresaw, and despite him being atop a battlement raining down a fireball, it does not appear the walls will hold. A green haired elven woman in guard gear applauds his spell, and he investigates, as this seems entirely too odd. He does not recognize her despite her praise, and she assures him that his firepower is more than up to the task. He realizes that he has much fire in his belly, and rises on leathery wings, flying over the battle with renewed strength and dragon fire belching from his maw. The trolls burn. “You could make them ALL burn!”

All of them awaken in some state of distress, especially Finch, and least of all Sarthaal who finds the vividness of his power-fantasy different than normal during his night-time meditations.

They hold a final war council before marching off to war, bringing with them some 200 militiamen and guards (leaving behind a skeleton crew of guards to man the wall, with Gawain in charge of the outer perimeter, and Sean Bean in charge of the castle).

REWARDS
500xp for personal introspection

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Session 23 - Mail Order Died
In which a baby survives, and a bride-to-be does not.

Everyone is seriously on board for keeping the owlbear baby alive, and not just to sell on the open market, proving that they do have hearts after all! Monstrous but domesticated youngsters may be the new fashion trend to hit Brevic markets if this keeps up. The young beast is christened ‘Mordu’, and strapped to Papa Brand’s chest for safekeeping while they continue their investigation of the cave.

Large spiderwebs are of particular concern as they climb up the slope at the back towards a new room where light is streaming in, although instead of simply the giant spiders they expected, they are attacked as well by a pair of ettercaps returning to their nest. The battle was fierce, but brief, with one ettercap having fled the scene still alive, deciding that the housing market was better the next cave over. Aside from a blood-drained corpse bearing a large jewel and some fine gloves, there is little else of interest remaining.

Upon attempting to leave back the way they came, they take a northern juncture for a change and discover an entire room filled with giant spiders, and Mason finds a use for his Stone to Mud spell, caving in the entrance so that the spiders are sealed in. Spying an as of yet untrod southern juncture, hidden partially by a large pool of water with the entrance being in the corner of the nest room, they move single file with Brand in the lead. The slender passage has a trap, however, as a weak section of earth collapses beneath Brand, who falls unceremoniously into the pit, somehow managing to twist enough so that he did not crush Mordu on the way down. His allies lower down a rope to get them out, Mordu first, followed by Brand, who screams for them to hurry, as some kind of carnivorous mold is searing his armor and otherwise spreading. Managing to get out of the hole in time to remove his armor, they spend a time cursing as they help wash and cleanse his armor with water from the pool, leaving his armor somewhat acid scarred but functional. Having had enough of this, they finally manage to leave, making sure to take some giant owlbear claws on the way out so that they have proof of their deed.

Several days later, they arrive back in Redemption, tired and ready for some rest and relaxation after their long ride and hard battles. The townsfolk are quite relieved to hear of their deed, and business is good at the Nest as Finch rings in a small party, as well as coin, with General Reeves to soothe her physical tensions afterwards. Brand and Mason are sure to share a drink, and Brand later spends some quality time with young Mordu who has a whole pen to himself in the castle stables. Ideas are hatching regarding the possibilities of a trained and full grown owlbear.

Sarthaal does not have as good a night, however, as he returns to his bedchambers to find Kanaan waiting there in extremely suggestive leatherwear, and none of it particularly suited as armor. She is being uncharacteristically sexual with him, as Sarthaal moves to the bed with the lure of consummating their relationship. He is momentarily unsure of this happening as after some light petting she grips him by the neck and begins to strangle him powerfully. He is quite sure soon after this that the act is not meant to be sexual, but a means to a violent, quiet end, as being choked is an ingenious way to silence his ability to call out a spell. Despite being physically overpowered by the more muscular orc, and fighting blackness at the edge of his vision, he manages to worm out of her grasp and roll off the bed with a burst of adrenaline, gasping as he uses his magic to advantage, rendering her unconcious but still alive. Calling the guard, he has her carried down to the basement laboratory and strapped to one of the test tables, at which point he privately administers his sole bottle of truth telling potion before interrogating her as she awakens. The potion is not absolute, and she can manage to willfully not answer a question, and what little he can get out of her of worth is follows.

The why? Dissatisfaction with his creepy treatment of her, and the addition of having had a better offer to take out Sarthaal instead of be bound to him by marriage.
The who? She was remarkably tight lipped on this insistent question, saying it was only a ‘big man who was missing a tooth’. This information makes him think of Corax, the logging master, but on its own applies to far too many people in the region (high quality dentistry not being prevalent).

As the potion wears off, and she curses his name, Sarthaal spits at her, and draws his bow, firing several arrows into her to end her life. He is still for a long time after, before raging, and destroying or throwing into disarray most of his laboratory, having only scratched at the secret of lizard-human crossbreeding with as of yet no major breakthroughs.

The next day, reports filter in of more troll attacks in the south western reaches of the woods. Trappers and hunters are not safe, and neither is Redemption. The gears of war begin moving, as both a wall begins to be built around their fair city, and Reeves summons men and women of the guard and new blood to defend their home. A militia slowly but surely forms, with Reeves, Brand, and Mason training them in the arts of war. Far to the southwest, Hragulka’s trolls become allied with the Bloodscale kobolds. Autumn leaves, already red, are made more so as the raids to Solace’s borders grow more frequent. Finch’s scouts do their best to keep track of their movements, and in his castle, Baron Sarthaal pines for love.

REWARDS
-1700xp for spiders, ettercaps, Mason shutting a cave, and Sarthaal defeating/interrogating Kanaan.
-Gloves of swimming and climbing.
-Large amethyst (worth 100gp).
-Mordu the owlbear cub.

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Session 22 - Hunting the Beast
In which a cave is plundered, an owlbear fought, and Brand's power grows (literally).

With very little difficulty, the assembled party tracks the wreckage that is the trail of the owlbear to it’s lair in the southeastern region of the Kamelands- specifically a hill that overlooks the river. They assess their options at this point, rather than merely charging in, and Mason rigs up a trap of a large falling rock while Sarthaal inspects everyone’s potions and sundry for magical identification. With this prepared, they send Finch in to scout as she is the most naturally stealthy. Wait, where did she go?

Inside she finds a terribly stinky midden area as well as accidentally locating a shrieker of a mushroom fungus. Alarming, but nothing shows up to investigate, and she remains hidden. The nest is found in the room to the east, as well as a man’s body still fresh with loot, which she takes- most particular of note is his magical dagger, poison, and an oddly shaped ring made out of what appears to be green hair. She pockets the small items, and eyes his gleaming (but now useless) chainmail, thinking that he’s not all that far off from Reeves’ build.

Outside, Mason discusses strategy, or tactics (whichever is which) in the form of putting together a boulder above the cave to bash the beast on the head should it emerge. He and Brand set about doing so, while Sarthaal supervises and ‘stands watch’.

Creeping onward, Finch discovers the giant owlbear’s abode, where it seems to be mourning it’s mate- a dead, rotting owlbear whose stench fails to deter it’s other half’s nuzzles. Tiptoeing away, Finch goes to report this very important news.

The party convenes and discuss what to do while Mason puts the finishing touches on his boulder trap, and it is determined that the best course of action is for the group to lie in wait, with Finch getting it’s attention as she is the most nimble- a fact she accomplishes with great aplomb. Fire gets her noticed, as some more alchemist fire nips at it’s leg’s fur, and with a great roar the beast is once again enraged at the humanoids who invaded its sanctum and killed it’s mate, and rushes to take it out on the current batch of bipeds.

Battle is joined as it appears in the archway, Finch yelling for them to go, now, and with a great Stoneclimb heave, Mason calls upon the strength of his arms and shield, and plows into the boulder, tipping it from its perch to land a strong glancing blow down the owlbear’s right flank, creating a momentous thud as it embeds in the earth next to it. Screeching in pain, the owlbear’s rolling eyes latch onto the first thing it sees- Finch, who hurt it first, which it retaliates against with a mighty blow! Finch is sent flying, rebounding off the rock wall, as Sarthaal maintains a safe distance atop Moonlight, launching scorching rays into it’s pelt. With his own bear-like roar, Brand brings his blades to bear, slashing at it’s legs until the squawking hulk snatches him up and begins to squeeze in one great claw. Mason’s arrows from above the ledge appear to do little to deter this. With his life being crushed out of him, Brand struggles to get a nearly forgotten potion from his hip to his lips- one of enlarge person! Taking it down in a mighty swig, he swallows, and begins to grow in the beast’s hand. Confused, the owlbear gets rid of him- throwing him at Mason, who is fortunately spared being crushed!

Everyone’s a little impressed by the impending battle of the Godzillas as the owlbear begins to climb the wall up to the ledge, but before it gets too far Brand is already vaulting atop it- his blades brought to bear, literally. His weight knocks it from its perch and it falls to its back, Brand’s newly enlarged blades drawing some of it’s last breath. Between this, and the volley of flame from Sarthaal, the enraged owlbear is made no more. Everyone takes a breather, and in time, Brand slowly reverts to normal size, upon emerging, his swords appear to be etched as though by acid in an undistinguished pattern near the base of the blade.

Determined to finish scoping out the cave before leaving, they head back in, and to nobody’s particular great surprise, they discover a mewling owlbear baby, one left still alive amongst its fellows at the back of the cave. Brand’s heart grew three sizes that day.

REWARDS
2750xp each, for defeating the giant owlbear, shriekers, and shambling mound
-Wand of Lightning bolt, 8 charges.
-Map of Greenbelt with cave and Redemption clearly marked.
-Cursed ring of bestial friendship made out of solidified green hair.
-146gp, 2 thunderstones, a tanglefoot bag, two smokesticks, a vial of antitoxin.
-Jar of restorative ointment
-2 potions of speak with animals.
-2 masterwork throwing daggers.
-1 dagger
-
2 chain shirt (most of the above found on or around Dovan’s body).

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Session 21 - Your Town is Under Attack!
In which leaders ride home, and a giant beast attacks.

Cleaning up after their affair with the trolls, Sarthaal, Finch, and Mason all collect their breaths before riding east, to get away from this troll infested section of wood. Clearly there is more of a troll presence here than originally thought, and it would not do well to remain in monster territory!
A kobold harries them briefly as they ride, slinging Sarthaal in the face, who mutually responds with an arrow to the kobold’s neck. A critical hit! Not falling for any of the ‘chase me’ shenanigans, the party is pretty sure that engaging that kobold directly would have led them into a series of traps.

Their gallop leads them to the territory of another monstrous denizen- what they presume to be a drake, who is spitting acid at them! Having no time for this, still they ride- evading the beast’s poisonous clouds. They don’t stop until they reach the Slappidy-Doo and his tribe of Azureclaw lizardmen for respite. Gracious hosts, Slappidy-doo and company offer them food and rest, remaining on neutral-good terms with their more numerous neighbors to the north.

Meanwhile, Redemption is under attack! Brand is awoken, having slept off his almost-death with alacrity, only to have to deal with more shit when he awakens. He could kill everyone for this. Rallying with the town guard and Commander Reeves, they formulate a plan to combat the enormous, enraged owl bear that is stalking the city streets, currently destroying houses and having eaten a number of townsfolk (or at least parts of them).

Brand and Reeves quickly arrive at the plan to get some of the guard to lead it on, and lure it into a trap- Bokken has agreed to forgo any normal charges for his products and simply give over any of his in-town stock of flammables to the cause of city defence. The giant beast is attracted just as it sinks its claws into the city’s finest gentleman’s club, ripping off the door before turning on Guardsmen Harding, who screams and flees, with the beast in tow. A pit has been dug on Hobbs street, with all of Bokken’s explosives contained within. Jeoff is up in a window ready to flaming-arrow the crap out of that as soon as the beast is lured over top. Running distraction is Brand himself, replacing guardsman Harding, and accompanying him are Commander Reeves, and Sirs Bruce Gawain and Robin of Locksley. Circling the beast over top of the trap, Jeoff delivers a palpable hit- the explosive force setting the owlbear’s leg fur on fire and injuring it as the warriors on horseback harry it further. Nearly all of them feel the whallop of a crippling owlbear strike before the beast has had enough this day, and barrels off with surprising speed back into the wilderness out of town, leaving behind the city’s smoking and broken ruins!

Some serious thought is being given at this point to city walls.

Sarthaal, Mason, and Finch only arrive in the aftermath, congratulating Reeves and Brand on the feat- at which point, in a very quick ceremony, Mason passes leadership of the town guard to Brand, a role that suits him more favourably. The town guard and assembled militia give a cheer, before hurrying to put out fires, tend to wounds (of which Mason and Joan’s curative spells are a big help with), and assemble temporary shelters for those affected by the attack- as well as keep the peace!

The rest of the council assemble for a meal in the main hall of the castle to discuss strategy. Guardsman Goldblum, the scout, has already been sent out to track the beast, and they are discussing what to do in the meantime. City walls are brought up as a primary construction project (after the existing homes are rebuilt for the citizens), and a series of historic conversations occur- many of the council talking about their pasts, and what brought them here. Sarthaal, of note, has a brother somewhere, and was kicked out of his island home for having fallen in love with an orc raider who did not, in the end, love him back the same way. Finch speaks briefly of having fled the devil-worshipping nation of Cheliax, and Brand is asked about his house, and his swords. After the owlbear battle they appear to have gotten drawn etches on their metal, which don’t appear to form anything distinct yet, but are not battle-scarred damage. No one is quite sure what it is, but Mason can tell him that those marks are not random. They swap some stories regarding growing up near Stoneclimb (although Brand, as a minor noble, had something of a wealthier upbringing). Sarthaal continues to make overtures towards Kanaan, his bride to be, who finds them annoying at best, though she is still on strained speaking terms. The booze helps.

Mason sets to crafting a shield in the time they have- using his giant turtle shell acquired some time ago for parts to form something stronger, lighter, and more magically empowered than his simple metal protection previously worn.

Several days later, Goldblum returns- the beast has headed southeast in a pretty straight, easy to track line. Prepping potions, sharpening blades, and mounting up, the party moves to follow.

REWARDS

575xp each, from clever thinking, deflecting the owlbear, and good conversational RP.

People bought potions.
Mason built a Turtle Shell +1 Shield with a dash of Bull’s Strength added to the mix that he can use once a day, calling upon it via giving it a good bash with his sword.

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Session 20 - Troll Patrol
In which a rest is had, and reports of trouble arrive from the southwestern Narlmarches...

Managing to get home without too trouble, everyone goes to their respective homes to get a well-deserved rest. Sarthaal takes this time, with his decreased lack of sleep, to properly receive a mail-order bride: Kanaan, a surly half-orc spear-woman from the tribes in the River Kingdoms. As payment for this, the tribe has demanded a tribute of armor- at least one full suit of plate armor, and several layers of scale mail for their fighters. Sarthaal clarifies that indeed this payment can be taken over a course of time, but that at least some of the initial payment must be sent back soon to secure Kanaan as his arranged bride. She is not excited at all, but seems diplomatic enough as orcish tribespeople go, in that she only hits Sarthaal when he makes socially awkward and inappropriate early advances on her, rather than trying to kill him.

Rumours begin to spread concerning the castle’s new occupant, as the rest of the group gets proper rest, especially Brand who is completely conked out with a scar on his neck from where his stab wound has since been healed.

The afternoon brings a report from a woodland trapper that had an encounter with a troll, sending feared whispers through town. The kingdom’s leaders convene for this troublesome report and send out the party to ascertain the extent of the troll threat- only one troll was reported, but are there more? There certainly are…

With several days travel, they arrive in the darker corners of the southern Narlmarches, and discover reptilian tracks of an unspecified nature. They are large, however, and thus are considered with caution, before being followed. The trail leads to the scene of a fight, where the corpse of a half-dissolved troll indicates the large reptile was of the acid-creating variety. Most likely a drake. All the scuff marks about show that there were at least five trolls, which wandered off again to the southwestern woods yet again. Deeper into the woods, the party discovers a different sort of reptilian-kin- redscale kobolds which they stumble upon, whom immediately demand to know why the party is present in their holdings. Sarthaal doesn’t even deign to entertain their assertions before utterly obliterating them with a fireball spell. Their charred corpses will serve as a warning to other redscales.

Further on they discover a well trod troll-path; the trolls have certainly been here for some time, in numbers. This may explain the decreased amount of deer or other large sources of food- they’re in hiding from hungry trolls. They settle in to make ready for a troll attack, with a band coming around the corner. Finch hides in the woods, and Mason softens the earth on the path before them- ensuring that as they charge, a sandy morass awaits them to slow their approach. Knowing their true weakness, Sarthaal lets loose fire after fire spell, roasting most of them while Finch draws one on a wild goose chase in the woods after slicing and dicing his number two.

In the end, the party is victorious, though Sarthaal’s magical forces are depleted, and the troll filled woods are looking more menacing by the hour.

Rewards:
7000xp (1750xp each)
1600xp x 4 Trolls
100xp x 4 Kobolds
200xp CSI

Several vials of drake acid and troll blood.

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Session 19 - Devil's Deal
In which a dungeon is delved, an an old face confronted.

Despite the shock, the party soon rallies to Brand’s defence, attacking the offending statue with gusto, though they discover quickly that more than one are animate as one by one, four in total activate with the intent of bringing stone and steel death upon the invaders. One in particular operates as a magical turret, blasting Brand again and again until he chops off the stupid thing’s arms. Breathing heavily, they rally, and discover that in the midst of all this, Finch has disappeared! Outside, she’s beat feet to flee the island, but instead winds up drinking to herself to try to regain her composure outside the tower. With great trepidation, she decides, after a few hours thought, that she’d best go in and find her companions… to get them to leave immediately, out of utter terror for the not only Chelish, but Asmodean presence!

Insides, the three men have retreated from the hall of statues to a centralized storefront and under Sarthaal’s orders begin to construct crude fortifications out of boxes, chests, and other stackables. Though rickety, the slapdash effort will prevent them from being overrun as they sleep and at least giving them time to rise to the battle and meet their enemy in fewer numbers as they clamber over. The first one to clamber over is Finch, before they rest in the dungeon, and though she tries to tell them to leave, Sarthaal implores her to stay… with a charm spell that just barely works.

They rest, but only manage to get about two hours worth when their camp is attacked by the wailing of ghouls, and then the ghouls themselves. They are under siege! They rise, going to defend their three entrances with good success- the ghouls can at best barely get over the wall before being blasted or sliced to smithareens. Mason’s earthwork proves effective- softening the structure of the wall above the doorways so that the stone and clay drop a crushing load on the interlopers. Imps appear then, a clear devilish presence establishing itself amidst the undead, whirling and screeching around the party’s heads… but it is Finch’s neck that feels it most keenly. Not their talons, but the ache of her House’s tattoo, which would usually signify the presence of an Asmodean cleric! Moments after, one of the walls is blasted and shattered, with a bearded devil behind their true foe, a hell knight of Asmodeus- none other than Godfred Lambert, a blackguard in the flesh who ought to be back in the dungeons of Restov! Sneering, he launches into the fray as his imps die, the last one of which does manage to tear Finch’s scarf from her neck, revealing her mark.

Already weakened from the siege, the onslaught of an antipaladin and a larger devil at the same time proves nearly too much. They are so nearly matched, even as Brand is forced to fall by the fiery blade of Godfred- who stands atop him with blade at throat, to propose a deal… and on the side, recognize that Finch ought go back to her lawful owners, as she is property.

Godfred proposes thus- that they invaded his current home, and that as compensation they must leave and not disturb the island. In exchange, he swears that he and any followers of his will leave the vicinity within six months, with an addition of nonaggression between the two parties. In effect, everyone gets to live and let live, and they’ll leave the island and the kingdom’s vicinity in some time. Sarthaal barters the time down mercilessly, sneering at the notion that devil worshipers would be good company and that they surely are up to no good (which is a fair point), while Godfred simply tells him to ask Finch how trustworthy Chelish paperwork and sworn oaths are, which grudgingly she can’t really refute (the devil, as always, being in the details you don’t see and not the deals you do). Waiting patiently, a contract is written up, and signed by both parties.

At this point, Sarthaal unleashes an attack, the whole contract having been a distraction- Finch uses her elemental gem to summon a water elemental to attack Godfred as Sarthaal simultaneously throws a barrel of flammable oil at Godfred, getting him soaked in it from the waist down. Howling with fury, Godfred attacks Brand at his feet before being pushed back, leaving the party’s warrior on the knife-edge of death! The flaming arrow Sarthaal next shoots sets Godfred aflame, and finally he breaks from the room at a dead run down the dark corridor behind him. The devil with him simply teleports, leaving them alone. Instead of giving chase, they flee after getting Brand healed to conciousness- too sore and wounded to persist in battle any longer. It seems to have been a good idea to pause, as Mason senses the underground dungeon beginning to shudder, and quake… its collapse imminent! They rush up the stairs as it collapses beneath them, and leap from the tower’s front door as it falls, piece by piece, in on itself into a wreckage, with their panting forms taking a breather in the moonlight.

Rewards:

13000xp (3250xp each)

800xp x 4 Animate Statue
800xp x 4 Wight
200xp x 2 Zombies
600xp x 4 Imps
2200xp x Godfred Lambert
1600xp x Bearded devil

Totally destroyed a tower and got to jump away from it while it collapsed behind you.

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Session 18 - Tipping the Scales
In which an inn opens, a child is rescued, and a spirit leads falsely.

Months pass, and in the early days of May, winter snows clear, and ice thaws around Candlemere lake.

Finch’s inn, the Sparrow’s Nest opens to much cheer as a ‘flagship’ effort in the entertainment industry of Redemption. A great big opening party announces its present as the tavern comes to dominate the main street as the largest building that isn’t the castle. The Mason and Brand, who have been chummy as of late, are on hand to provide extra guard (and to quaff, of course). Brand in particular has been popular with the local fisherman, and one of their signature members, Arven, has indeed help make sure the Sparrow’s Nest has fish on the menu. Sarthaal has been conducting strange experiments in the dungeon, but makes a token appearance. Finch, of course, is serving up a storm to customers and developing a healthy (or at least inebriated) customer base.

The next day, Arven awakens Brand as he is in need- his son Tanner is missing! Supposedly watching the chickens at home, that scamp wandered off and Arven cannot locate him. Usually the boy is back by morning, but as the hours went on, Arven became concerned that this was more than a simple walkabout by his boy, and sought help. Brand assembles the tired, hung-over, or busy-in-the-dungeon members of the team, and together they set off a bit groggily to track the boy southwards. Mason proves adept at this, and unerringly leads them along the riverbank, where they discover lizard tracks picking up the boy’s own tracks before leading off. A kidnapping? Or a murder?

They press on, and later that day come upon the outskirts of a lizardfolk village- blue swatches of paint on their chests in intricate patterns indicating their Azure tribal roots. Stealthily checking out the situation, Finch ascertains that the boy is indeed in there- wailing as he is being snapped at by beasts beneath his hanging cage. The party discusses the best course of action, and agrees that diplomacy is the best initial route, with a fallback of “grab the boy and run”, and the fallback plan C of “if all goes to hell, kill everything that moves that isn’t us or a child.”

Sarthaal approaches the front gates astride his mount, with Brand, Mason, and Arven hanging back (Arven being a liability in his angered, desperate state). Finch is actually tucked in his cloak as hidden backup. With the help of some linguistic magic, and one of the guard speaking smatterings of Taldane, they manage to open a dialogue and have a chance to meet the chieftain, Vesket, to trade.

The Chieftain is powerful and taciturn and unwilling to simply give up the boy, though given the discontent a wailing boy is causing his tribe, will agree that the matter can be consulted instead through the ancestral spirits, and bids Sarthaal to join him and his braves in the spirit hut. His mount is allowed entry, as well as the boy’s cage, who is dragged in near the central fire pit. A ceremony begins, with chanting and lizardfolk mud painting, which actually appears to draw some form of spectral entity- a floating ball of light with a lizard skull in the center. It pulses ominously in communication with Vesket, who declares that the ancestors demand tribute in the form of a non-lizardfolk innocent. Sarthaal, who can currently comprehend all normal languages, does not actually get the sense that any real communication has taken place here that Vesket would be privy to, although the spectral entity delights in the boy’s fear. Vesket’s second in command, Bahb, angrily argues that they ought let the boy go, and that this kind of cruelty is unbecoming of true lizardfolk.

Deciding not to listen too much longer, Sarthaal leaps suddenly into action, bidding his mount to bite the cage and carry it- Tanner is not too heavy for Moonlight’s neck to bear. As they flee out the front door, Sarthaal casts fireball back into the tent- a massive plume of fire immolating many of the braves within, and injuring the others. The wisp attacks on Sarthaal’s rear, avoiding the flame and striking back with electrical shocks.

Seeing the plume of flame rise from the water’s edge, Mason and Brand charge across to secure the front gate, receiving Sarthaal as he nears them, unconscious with shock, though Finch’s quick hands with a potion bottle get him conscious again before they beat feat- partly aided by a civil war that erupts as unpopular ruler Vesket and his loyalists defend against Bahb and the other lizardfolk’s sudden eruption into battle over the issues of child kidnapping (as will later be determined, more so over the act of cruelly making the boy suffer rather than simply killing him outright or otherwise doing something productive with him).

After a time, the fleeing party sees the spirit wisp streaking over head, popping in and out of view, as it heads down the river towards Candlemere, and the tower thereupon. Deciding grudgingly to head back, the group discovers the end of a lizardfolk war, with Bahb having defeated Vesket at the expense of his own safety, as he is currently bleeding to death from a trident wound. Mason heals the new chieftain, as well as any lizardfolk he can, which does wonders to improve race relations. The lizardfolk tend to the dead by preparing them for food (waste not, want not), and Sarthaal extends the following treaty- that the lizardfolk may keep their village as is, and be considered neutral in the eyes of Solace, but that any aggression or hunting of the populace of his barony will be met with an armed squad returning with them to wipe the lizardfolk out. Sarthaal is enacting his rarely used TWO strikes and you’re out proposition, and it is agreed upon by Bahb.

Their first goal met, they return to town where Arven is quite thankful, offering his wife’s (Erastil praise her soul) enchanted ring as a reward for saving his son, but Brand refuses it on principal. Their first deed done, they collapse exhausted and sleep up, feeling refreshed enough to ask Arven to help them in a more pertinent way- lending them the use of his boat so that they can get across to Candlemere island.

The island’s tower looms as they travel over the waves, with Brand and Mason doing most of the rowing, only to discover that the damn place is surrounded by a thicket of sickening nettles that makes them feel none too good. Night is falling, and they only have one place to go- the potentially haunted tower. Within, they find it mostly ruined, with a staircase leading up. A cursory examinatino reveals that this is not all- Finch detects a secret entrance build into a fireplace leading down- as it clicks open, the staircase down reveals itself, and the party treads down into the unknown. With torches lit, they eventually find the base, and strike out east into a tunnel, and south again. It isn’t long before a store room reveals a wight to them, and though they defeat the undead, they doubt it’ll be the last of their troubles. Something seems awfully familiar about the tapestries, though, as Sarthaal knows, but Finch is drawing a blank. The next room down provides illumination in the form of prominent statues lined up one after the other of heroic and devilish figures, making the meaning of the tapestries apparent to Finch- this was a Chelish tower, and these statues are in honour of diabolists! Going stock still, she gasps and falls back, unable to even slink into the shadows as she would normally, before a curious Brand is attacked by a statue coming alive!

Rewards:

4800xp (1200xp each)

400xp x 6 Lizardfolk
1600xp Saving Tanner!
800xp x 1 Wight

Arven’s fishing boat whenever you need it.
Non-aggression/expansion pact with Azure Claw tribe.

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