Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The Road to Cauldron Keep

July 4 to July 14–18, 3430, Age of Kings

Once inside the church the party was greeted warmly by an elder priest who led them into the main hall. Once inside Lorentz spoke to the priest about Brother Shamus, who was currently in the church's study. While the priest was fetching Brother Shamus for the group, they were led downstairs to a simple dormitory where they could leave their gear before returning back upstairs to the dining hall to have a meal of pottage, bread and wine (and ale for Broak).

Eventually a heavy-set priest came in and greeted the party as Brother Shamus. They laid out their plan to him (without giving too much away) and they enlisted his help after a small donation to the church.

They then went to bed for the night, enjoying the modest comfort and protection of the church.

*   *   *

The next morning, after breakfast, they went out to find their horse and mule fed and watered, and their carts washed. They said their goodbyes to the priests, and set out north up the road with their new traveling companion.

*   *   *

The next few days saw better weather and an empty road. After three days of travel they saw the forest to the west start to become withered and dead looking. Eventually and old road broke off from the main road, marked by several iron cages with the long dead remains of prisoners inside—this was the road heading up to Cauldron Keep. In the distant forested foothills a small plume of smoke could be seen rising from the thick forest ahead.

They made their way west up the old road, although there wasn't heavy traffic, Ander was able to find several groups of tracks, only a few days old moving up and down the road towards the forest. They past by several more cages with their grisly contents, and the occasional sun-bleached skull on a stake along the road. 

As they entered the forest the two elves noticed an unnatural aura about the forest—the trees seemed to be dying, or in a perpetual state of autumn, there were no birds chirping, and there seemed to be no sign of wildlife, but they pressed on.

As they got closer to the keep and the sun passed below the mountains, they thought it best to move off the road and make a plan. While they did this, Ander scouted ahead and made his way to the keep, where he saw the old keep, and a handful of sentries armed with crossbows walking the walls. Not wanting to risk detection, he returned to the group to pass along what he had seen.

When Ander returned the party noticed torchlight flickering between the trees coming up the road. They swiftly moved back to the road to flank whomever was coming up the road towards the keep, waiting for a signal from Boots if they should attack, leaving Gerhardt and the carts back at their camp.

After a short wait a large group could be seen making their way up the road. Leading the way were four armoured mercenary-types armed with swords and crossbows, three bugbears (two of which were pulling a wagon laden with goods, and three tied-up humans with bloody sacks over their heads), followed by 12 filthy, crazed-looking men dressed in tattered robes, all carrying massive flails, all muttering to one another. Ander could make out the bugbears speaking in Goblin to one another about "not trusting the pale-skins," and "asking Grakk what he thinks they should do."

Greatly outnumbered, they decided to hold back and let the train pass by in the dark.

Once safe, the party took their time marching around to the rear of the keep—which seemed to be the least guarded area. Grabby and Ander silently climbed the old stone wall and made their way onto the parapet where they kept low to avoid detection. They then secured ropes for the other to climb up and join them. Once everyone was up they carefully opened the door to the nearby sentry tower.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

A Bulette to the Head... and Every Other Part

July 4 to July 12–14, 3430, Age of Kings

Our intrepid band of adventurers continued to push on northward down the road in the rain. As they walked the could feel slight tremors in the ground throughout the day, but never seeing or knowing what could be causing them—were they natural, or something else?

*   *   *

As the sun dropped beneath the mountains to the west they headed off the road and set up their camp. Lorentz informed them that in the next couple of days they should come across a road-side temple, The Church of His Eternal Glory.  There, they may be able to enlist the services of a Brother Shamus, a cleric Lorentz had worked with in the past, to join their band.

After eating dinner, the tremors persisted and seemed to be getting stronger. Suddenly a blood-curdling squeal of a boar could be heard off in the darkness. As they grabbed their weapons and rose to their feet, two giant boars rushed into their camp, wild-eyed and full of fear. They came to a sudden stop at the edge of the camp, seemingly surprised to run into the party—but willing to fight their way through them!

Ander backed off to cover to launch a continuous volley of arrows into the boars, while Lorentz and Grabby engaged one, and Audrey and Broak flanked the other, while Gerhardt stood with the pack animals to keep them calm, tied to a tree. At one point Broak dealth a stagger critical hit to a boar, causing him to relive his horrible past, stunning the boar and causing him to scream and cry, falling to his knees briefly.

As they fought on, the rumbling in the ground began to grow. As they were wearing the boars down, the ground shook violently, and the tree the pack animals were tied to cracked, rocked to the side and was uprooted in a cloud of dust and leaves. The horse and the mule were wrenched onto their sides, and Gerhardt was pinned beneath a tree branch and the thrashing mule.

The boars, equally surprised by the sudden uprooting of the tree, were caught off guard and the party slew them both, just as a massive shape emerged from a hole where the tree once stood: a land shark! The beast leapt through the air, coming down with horrible force on Audrey, dealing a massive amount of damage. Several of Anders' arrows bounced off its thick hide as the other party members rushed into the barbarian's aid.

Grabby climbed a nearby rock outcropping to gain height over the beast, but the wind shifted and wafted the delicious scent of halfling to the land sharks nostrils—it's favourite meal! Excited by the prospect of a halfling morsel, it once again jumped high into the air, landing on the rock outcropping, but Grabby managed to avoid the brunt of the attack, and rolled off the rock, and into the shadows below where he briefly hid from the hungry beast.

In his weakened state Grabby moved around the camp in an effort to stay away from the land shark while the others continued the attack. Lorentz switched to his crossbow which he quickly broke the bow string with a critical fail.

GM Note: Audrey's player was also rolling for Lorentz this session, and she rolled miss after miss, with several critical fails for both characters, leading to much frustration for her that night.

As they wore the beast down it manged to deal a devastating attack to both Audrey and Broak, leaving them bloody and unconscious on the ground. But within moments the others managed to bring the creature down, and they managed to finally help Gerhardt get out of his tight spot between the tree and the mule.
Audrey and Broak were eventually brought around, and had their wounds bandaged and they made it though the rest of the night without incident.

*   *   *

The next two days of travel saw nothing but rain and a grey sky. Late in the day they came to The Church of His Eternal Glory (a church devoted to St. Eliah), and entered past two rigid-looking paladins guarding the front gate...