The Broken Crown

Helge's Story

Breakthrough

For the eighth morning running, Helge is awoken by the calls of the seagulls as they break their fast in the shallows of the archipelagos of Igægi.

Wincing in the bright sunlight, he props himself up from his position of rest, face-down on the desk covered in notes and scribbles.

He wipes some drool from his cheek and then, more frantically, from the note at the top of the pile on his desk. Blearily he reads in smudged ink what he must have written to himself just before he fell asleep in the early hours of the morning.

This is it

What must be done

Many months ago now, Helge had made a discovery that was, to his mind, one of the greatest contributions to herbal medicine in the past 2 decades at least! Since then he had spent every waking hour trying to find a way to have his discovery published by a worthy institution.

He’d written letters and repeat letters to herbological, medical and scientific colleges in all of the 9 kingdoms of Odreïn and, much to his surprise and exasperation, heard absolutely nothing in return. Perhaps they thought it was a hoax? It sometimes struck he himself that it was too exciting to be true.

He was beginning to lose hope of anyone taking him seriously, and harden himself to the possibility that if his discovery was ever going to be shared with the greater world (and truly it must be shared!), he was going to have to set off to make a name for himself and find his own monetary means of publishing his work.

On the 199th day (Helge was counting) the ferry once again arrived with not a word of response. Before he could change his mind, Helge paid the ferryman nearly all of his savings to charter a journey to the Inner Rift.

Adventure time

The journey had been horrendous. Helge didn’t think he had it in him weather such a prolonged fit of vomiting. He staggers onto dry land, weeping with relief and exhaustion. The ferryman, concealing a smirk, points him in the direction of the village of Bridgefoot, the nearest chance of food and comfortable rest. His few remaining coins jingling in his pocket, he trudges wearily along the road…

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Episode 5.1
Jason's Thoughts

As we approach the camp, Zephyr/Duke Relis suddenly jumps to his feet looking to defend himself. I see clearly now that this is a man who that has seen battle, as he lowers his weapon in recognition of who we are, beckoning us forward. We reach the camp with no other complications, and are pleasantly surprised to find our comrade Sti’vun; who rejoins us after a brief side quest.

I listen with half an ear as the group talk to the Duke. He allows us to camp with him upon hearing that we’ll lead him to the carriage he was after – in return we get a tidy profit for a couple of hours work. The Heroes of Woodcrest aren’t complete mercenaries – we just sometimes need a little motivation.

He proceeds to tell us how the “Broken Crown” group – that ambushed them this night – have started attacking various areas in the last 6 months, and how they have no real information about them or their structure – as they seem to attack from the shadows. He continues on about how the thugs we met in the tavern were meant to be his makeshift army – as if he used his real army from the kingdom, then the Broken Crown would be alerted that he was on to them. Personally I feel the reasoning is pretty dodgy, and looking at the faces around me it’s clear that some of the group feel the same. He segues on from this to say that he could use some help, but at this point I’m drifting off so I conveniently miss the rest.

He proceeds to bitch/complain a bit longer (the positivity is absolutely emanating from him) before we all call it a night and take a long rest, with a number of us taking watch when needed. There’s a horrible stench in these woods during the night, or at least that what Enna and Sti’vun say in the morning. I decide to believe them as it’s the first thing they’ve agreed to this whole trip! Am I the only one here that’s amazed? They elaborate a bit and say the smell was like rotting flesh, which is just what I want to hear first thing in the morning as I’m eating breakfast. Can’t blame them for bringing it up though, as it’s better to know about potential zombies/undead then a surprise attack later on.

We march the hours needed and approach the carriage, which is STILL burning since we last left it – definitely an illusion – surely the resident racist should have seen that by now, what kind of mage is he anyway? As we get within a few hundred feet of the carriage, Enna charges back to give us the good news; we have some guests – a pack of wolves surrounding the overturned carriage.

Typically, the wolves decide pretty quickly that they don’t want us anywhere near their new spot – making a bee-line for us. They prove a f***ing handful as they are absolutely rapid, having the advantage every time they strike. We finally slay 6 wolves a little battered and bruised, with notable highlights coming from Wrenn, who pulled a critical hit out of his arse to get the first wolf (admittedly very impressive – bonus brownie points), and a smooth team combo when I burned a couple of wolves and Enna finished both of them off in one movement with her trademark short swords. Of course my defence was obviously a highlight – but it’s not good for team dynamic to constantly focus on the star of the team, so I just smile and compliment everyone on their skills. I’m so nice.

Relis conveniently uses some bullshit excuse about wanting to see how capable we are instead of helping us – an action I do not approve, and make a mental note of. However, he quickly makes amends when he confirms that “It’s so obvious it’s an illusion” when talking about the carriage fire – called it! Salzar falters and just about convinces Relis that he knew it was an illusion the whole time, though Relis is more interested in asking the big question of why. Why would someone create a distraction like this? Something they seemingly wanted us to find? We leave him to it as we ponder our next move.

It is at this point we summarise our options as:
1) We head back to Ponterin and speak to Zander reporting our progress so far.
2) Send a raven to Zander reporting our current progress, then we travel to Southmire – where Relis wants us to join him and aid him directly in the fight against the Broken Crown.
3) Send a raven to Zander, then make for the surrounding forest to investigate the undead in the region. This may potentially lead us to a Broken Crown base.

Personally I like option 2, but the majority like option 3 better – which is fine by me. To attract the ravens quicker we skin the wolves – which lands me a nice wolf pelt – and wait for a short while. The ravens don’t take long once they smell blood, and 3 perch by the wolves. Wrenn – using his abilities – talks to one and convinces it to send a message to Zander for us. With that done we head into the woods.

As we walk, it doesn’t take long to see pieces of rotting flesh (accompanied by a foul smell) dotted about on low hanging branches. Wrenn cleverly uses these to triangulate where the overriding stench may be coming from, and a 30 minute walk north leads us to an abandoned mine. The stench is so foul here that we KNOW we’ve found something big. Reluctantly, we make a few quick preparations then head inside the mine.

It’s immediately pitch black as we stroll through the mine, which is fine for most with their night vision – but not me! I’m about to get a lantern out, but some of the group get there quicker. Comically, Salzar tries to light Wrenn’s lantern with a click of his fingers, but fails – bringing great amusement to the party. Is this his roundabout way of helping the team bond? I shake my head still amused.

As we walk, the path splits. A mineshaft stretches down to the left, whilst on our current path there are two doors; one that seemingly leads to a storeroom, and another that may lead to something bigger at the end of the hallway. Helge, Sti’vun, and Enna want to check out the potential storeroom, whereas Salzar, Wrenn, and I want to see what hangs out down the left mineshaft. At an impasse, Wrenn brings out a coin and we decide to flip it. One rigged coin toss later, and we start making our way down the left mineshaft.

As we walk down the mineshaft, we see ruts in the ground – insinuating mine tracks – and a faint light in the distance, which would probably take 10 minutes to reach. A couple of minutes down the shaft, the light starts to refract weirdly. A bit freaked out, we all get startled as we see the cause of this – a 10ft cube with a skull in it. WTF? How the does something about 10ft wide appear out of nowhere? I immediately use my divine sense but get nothing – very surprising, considering we were expecting undead and this certainly fits the bill (for me at least). Enna does a quick arcana check and senses a magical creature. Sti’vun even throws a rock at the thing but it just disintegrates upon touching the cube!

[Shit is going down]

Panicking, everyone gets behind me as we get some semblance of a formation going. We throw a barrage of ranged attacks at the thing, dealing more damage to it than we have any other previous creature. Frustratingly, it seems like it can just soak whatever we throw at it forever. We’re at the point where some of us improvising our weapons – as Sti’vun lobs a flaming torch at the cube – but it soaks it up and comes ever closer to us, literally getting-all-up-in-my-grill. I can see clearly now that the cube is made up of gelatinous matter – and getting stuck in there is not something I want to think about. Having no intentions of bolting back down the mineshaft, I roar in defiance and unleash a newly learned skill – Divine Smite.

I crash my longsword straight down the middle of the gelatinous cube, expecting the worst…………but to my – and the party’s – surprise, the creature is incredibly sliced clean in half(!) slowly seeping into the earth. We’re all elated to come through that unscathed, drawing big sighs of relief, and decide to finish our walk to end of the mineshaft – after Salzar collects a sample of the gelatinous cube.

We continue the walk uneventfully and reach the end – into daylight. There is an ancient road that continues on from here, but nothing else. We take some notes, then head back though the mineshaft.

We turn left at the end of the mineshaft, and check out the door closest to us. Surprise – it’s a storeroom, though what’s actually revealing in the lack of meaningful supplies in here. It’s completely devoid of anything that living people can take – furthering my suspicions about the potential undead here.

We finally walk all the way down the main mineshaft, and find a room that contains an Acolyte and 5 Zombies (!) Our suspicions about the undead are now fully realised. Without hesitation the group goes straight for the jugular, and Sti’vun gives us a great advantage from the start as he deals with the Acolyte – incapacitating him – allowing us to question him later.

The group then methodically goes about killing the zombies – or should I say Salzar does. Here we are, hacking these zombies for fun, but they just….kept….getting….up. It was so ridiculous that at one point a zombie got back up from dying 4 TIMES IN A ROW before Salzar finally put it down. While all of us had terrible luck at dealing finishing blows, Salzar seemed to have stored up all his luck from the year, using it right now. The smug racist was going 3 for 3, but didn’t get the chance to kill the 4th and 5th Zombies as Enna finally stepped up to the plate and used her short swords to finish the last 2 zombies simultaneously. Pray to the lords above, I don’t think any of us would have lived in peace had he killed all 5.

We proceed to look for loot/investigate the room, with Wrenn and Salzar finding a piece of paper on a second mage – this one already dead – in the corner. The piece of paper contains a message, but the language is unknown to all of us. We also see that there is an altar on one side of the room, covered with blood – this is not pleasant.

We crowd around the knocked-out mage and wake him up. As he wakes, he takes some moments to gather the situation, before introducing himself as “Reamus”. He immediately converses with Salzar informally, referring to him as a “brother”, with most of the interrogation happening between the two. After a while, Salzar unties Reamus from his bonds; something I’m certainly not in approval of, but can understand. The Acolyte wasn’t giving us any useful answers, so we needed to try a different approach. This however, leads to nothing new for us, as Reamus keeps repeating “he must rise” to bat off any questions he doesn’t want to answer. By this point I’ve grown tired of his babbling and am about to say something, but Wrenn gets there first, slitting Reamus’ throat in an instant. He’s obviously had enough of that prattle.

I don’t get time to think on this though, as our mage brings out a pink vellum parchment inconspicuously given to him by Reamus. On further inspection I see that looks like…….yes, that is indeed human skin. Disgusted, I see that there are more of the currently indecipherable messages written upon it – which Wrenn and Salzar found earlier. Clearly deciphering these are important….

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Episode 5
from Salzar's Journal

My companions decided to approach Rellis’ camp with torches lit. When we were close enough, he reacted fast and readied his weapon despite appearing half asleep. The orc from our earlier travels was here, playing his dulcimer.

After listening to him drone on for quite the monologue, I deciphered that he has been building an army of thugs from the town. This quickly turned out to be unimportant, however, as the orcs had crushed that army with relative ease.
We had agreed to help the Duke find the carriage so we kept true to our word. Nightfall was eventful with the smell of rotting flesh and the sound of a scream. I was not amused.

When we woke in the morning, Rellis admitted surprise about the sword that I had. The plot thickened considerably as we headed towards the billowing smoke of the carriage and he indicated that it was, in fact, an illusion – just as I had previously assumed.
At this point, wolves attacked us. They assaulted us from the remains of the carriage and at first looked like they might best us… but a little encouragement from me allowed my companions to eventually fight properly. I believe Enna is quite like one of those goblin sharks that likes hunting already-bleeding prey as she made certain to kill most of the wolves while my other companions fought a little more defensively.
Rellis told us that he believed the carriage was a trap, set up by someone who wanted the blame firmly on Asker for the kidnapping. He then wisely suggested to us that we should report back to the Lord Protector and give a status update.

Wrenn managed to wrangle a raven, sending off a letter I wrote to the Lord Protector. We intended to head back, but first made passage towards the pine forest where the undead were said to roam.

It’s about here that I decided the orcs must have a mage. A powerful mage, strong enough to make illusions (like the smoke) last forever. They also might be raising the dead to fight for them.

We came across an old road leading North-South. I recognised that a fishing village was to the South, perhaps a day ride. To the north we discovered an abandoned mine, not Dwarven in design. The stench was terrible. I suspected zombies.

We took the mineshaft down while the others argued about lanterns, and then we had an argument about which way to go. Wrenn and myself wanted to go left (always left in a maze, of course), but the others wanted to investigate in random directions. Fortunately we decided on a coin toss, and Wrenn cheated, allowing us to go left.

The path went on for quite some time but we then came across a large ooze-like creature. The tactical Dragonborn managed to slay it with holy fire and I collected a sample of the ooze.

We took various paths, but then we discovered five zombies and a cultist! The cultist was knocked unconscious by a well-placed blow by the orc and then I quickly (and single-handedly) dispatched the zombies.
There was an altar in the room with a pentacrux and a symbol of Nerull. Atop sat a black onyx with another symbol in. We found several notes and had an interesting (but brief) conversation with the acolyte, named Remus. He was a ‘follower of the faith’ and had culled an initiate to create the zombies. He kept stating “he must rise”, clearly referring to Nerull.

Unfortunately, Wrenn slit his throat before the acolyte could tell me how to read the language… but I shall spend some time trying to decipher this now.

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Episode 4
from Salzar's Journal


After finding the royal carriage, sans Princess, we headed towards the town of Askren. I recall from my light reading that the town is predominantly human, so it’s probably okay.
The dragonborn has a feeling that the sword we acquired from the wreckage is a red herring, and combined with the magical smoke that was forming over the carriage, I would agree – it’s almost like someone wanted us to find the wreckage.

The day is cold as we approach the end of autumn, and I find I’m growing to hate the seasons as we travel cross-country to get back to the road to Askren. We see some orcs up in the distance, though, so a fight shall be had!

We engaged in combat with three orcs. Once again, I find my team’s tactics excessively lacking. Enna and Wrenn took to hailing the orcs with arrows, but Helge and the dragonborn were intent on charging. Today we discovered that the dragonborn is completely unable to hit anything with his sword, and Wrenn is more than happy to castrate orcs that wound his allies. I’m glad to be on the gnome’s side.
The dragonborn finally realised that he can’t hit anything, so utilised his breath weapon while Helge bravely scampered away from the orcs.
With a mighty blow, the dragonborn managed to kill the final orc – severing it in two.
We discovered that one of the orcs indulged in the superstitious belief in that removing an eye makes it more powerful. I proved to the group that it’s simply not the case by removing one of the weaker orc’s eyes.

When we finally got to town, we headed straight for the pub. While the town is predominantly human, there are also no women which leads me to wonder what has gone on. The dragonborn fell into the river, and much laughter was had, but otherwise the travel was uneventful. On arriving to the pub, I purchased everyone a drink and we discovered some interesting facts:

  • Kerensa, the barmaid, tells us of undead rising from the graves in the forest. This happened once, a long time ago, and the villagers went out with wooden stakes to put the undead to rest. Recently, there has been some stirring in the forest, but doing this would be paid in gratitude… and I’m unsure the Mercenary Heroes of Woodcrest would be interested in that.
  • A man with a red cowl, apparently a mage, wants help to find the royal coach. He offers 20 gold upfront, and 50 gold for each of us. Highly suspicious. He won’t give us his name, but offers the nickname Zephyr. We’ve agreed to help tomorrow morning, and will meet them at the pub at 8am sharp.
  • Renfrew, a mercenary gangster, wants us to pick on a farm girl named Abrielle. She owes him 50 gold ‘protection money’, so it’s an extortion racket. This pays 10 gold, plus 10% of what she sends back. We’ve agreed to investigate her, but I think we will kill him on our return. After all, we’re above aiding a protection racket, but we’re not above murder.
  • When we come back here, I will personally fireball this town. It’s full of lowlifes and miscreants. No humans, in my opinion, live here.

We headed off to see Abrielle. She seems nice, if scared, and has only amassed 20 gold – 30 under what she owes Renfrew. We’ve agreed to help her and put our own money forward to Renfrew to buy her some time. We’re preparing to leave now to return to the town, hopefully arriving back before 8pm.

We arrived back to the town to find it ransacked. Orcs, goblins, and kobolds have attacked the place, set fire to the lumber mill, and stuffed corpses down the well. Wrenn bravely looted the tavern and found 15 gold, but I suspect he’s hobbited away some more. No matter, he likely spends money a lot less carefully than a human would.
We found Renfrew’s body. The bastard didn’t even have enough coin on him to pay us for our job. We also found the body of the man who leered at Enna – and she was happy to kick him while he was down.

Four orcs ambushed us when we were searching for survivors. Again, our party displayed terrible tactics when Enna was surrounded and wounded, knocked unconscious by the brutes. Fortunately, the dragonborn was able to bathe the stinky runts in fire again.
After I killed one of the orcs, the party seemed to become more inspired and managed to get their game faces on. Wrenn slew another and Helge ripped the heart out of one with his sword. Very graphic.

Wounded, we sought a place to recover. We found a broken-in house, without dead bodies, and the dragonborn proceeded to prove that he has a good blacksmithing eye by fixing the door. We rested, I communed with Maltraxru (with words that are better left unwritten), and we then headed off south down the river with a rowboat.

Three hours later, and we’ve discovered a camp that we plan on approaching.

We moored the boat, headed to the road, and approached the camp. Zephyr and his gang of thugs seem to be out there, having successfully escaped the butchering of the town.

Wrenn has informed me that Zephyr is none other than Duke Rellis!

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Episode 3
A summons from Lord Protector Xander

After the events of episodes 1 and 2, our party has been resting up in Woodcrest and spending most of their time in the village pub. They’re already getting used to being referred to as heroes by the townsfolk and have spent a couple of weeks making the most of the free accommodation.

A Summons

One morning Anya, the gruff town guard, knocks on the door to the party’s room. She announces that a raven has arrived carrying a message addressed to “The Saviours of Woodcrest”. Jason reads the letter to the group, it is from Lord Protector Xander who wishes to meet with the party about a job – word of their exploits has travelled. The party know that Lord Protector Xander is standing in for the king, who is sick.

Rather than walking the two and a half days to Ponterin, the party opts to wait for the next caravan to pass through Woodcrest. When it arrives, the townspeople are overjoyed – it’s been almost a month since the last supplies came through and they’re living on scraps. Jason approaches the caravan leader, Charlie Farnsworth, to secure passage. After a few awkward minutes of caravan compliments, Salzar butts in and offers to protect the caravan.

The party members board the wagons and set off down the valley out of Woodcrest. Four hours in, the Reft Sea is visible on the horizon and the travellers skirt along the coast and spend a quiet night camping in a woodland glade. The second day of travel is bumpy but uneventful until the party finally reach the small village of Bridgefoot.

Bridgefoot

The village of Bridgefoot is overshadowed by an enormous natural stone arch which spans the Reft Sea inlet into the Inner Reft. Ponterin sits atop the arch and is only an hour or so away.

While the caravan pauses to trade timbers and resin for fish, the party decide to take a short break and explore the town. While Jason and Enna head for the bar, Wrenn and Salzar make a bee-line for the temple in search of something to read.

Entering the temple, it’s clear that it’s not very frequently used, and is devoid of other people. It takes no time for the pair of scholars to locate an extensive book collection and both Salzar and Wrenn “rent” some books.

Meanwhile, in the bar, there’s a hushed silence as Jason and Enna enter – village folk aren’t used to seeing a Dragonborn. They’re not threatened, but the obvious interest is a bit discomforting.

Before they can get to the bar, a human monk approaches Jason and introduces himself as Helge Rusk. The enthusiastic Helge wastes no time and asks if he can join the adventuring party. Jason tells Helge that he’ll need to prove himself and points to a Half Orc sitting in the corner. “Fight him”, Jason says.

The barman, who’s clearly been listening, shouts “No fighting!” and puts paid to the initiation ceremony. Still hoping to join, Helge regales Enna with the story of how he discovered a medicinal herb; it’s incredibly boring but, as a ranger, Enna’s interest is piqued.

At this point, Wrenn and Salzar enter the bar and wander over to the rest of the party. Realising he’s got yet more people to impress, Helge blurts “I can do a backflip for you!”. Without waiting he does a sweet backflip across the pub; Jason thinks it’s pretty cool. Enna, ever the show-off, performs an even better backflip.

Over in the corner of the bar, the Half Orc monk that was pointed at earlier has been watching the group. Sti’vun approaches the barman, who is holding his head in his hands, and orders a round of drinks for “The Heroes of Woodcrest”.

After carrying the drinks over, Sti’vun initates a conversation with the party. Salzar, not the most racially tolerant of the group, tastes his wine and then throws it over Sti’vun. The barman kicks Salzar out and warns the rest that there’ll be no trouble.

With Salzar gone, Jason offers the two monks an unpaid internship with the party. Enna, who deeply hates Orcs, doesn’t want to take on a Half Orc but will on the condition that she can kill him with her bare hands if he causes trouble. Enna’s comments (and the fact he’s still dripping with wine) is enough for Sti’vun and he walks away.

It takes a diplomatic Wrenn to convince Sti’vun to give the group another chance. He explains that not everyone in the party is as horribly racist and that he’s always being called a Halfling (he’s a Gnome). Sti’vun decides to give them a chance, but isn’t going to take much shit.

Everyone finishes their drinks and heads back towards the caravan. Helge is very excited to be part of an adventuring party, and Sti’vun starts to play his dulcimer as the horses and wagons pull away.

Ponterin

After two more hours of travel, the party reaches the western gate of Ponterin. The caravan heads to the stables just outside the gate and Salzar speaks to Charlie about payment. In typical Salzar style, he tries to get payment for the two monks that were picked up on the way, but the caravan leader has been in this business for too long – he doesn’t budge.

The party leaves the caravan and heads to the gate, where the guards wave them through. The city of Ponterin is cobbled and the buildings are rickety; the floors of many of the buildings look like they were added on later as the city grew and space became more scarce. Children play in the streets and merchants go about their business.

Not knowing a lot about Lord Protector Xander, the group decide to question some locals on the way to the palace. As they pass through the busy market square, Enna approaches a beautiful elf woman who’s selling makeup. After asking what the deal with Xander is, the woman replies “He’s a fair arbiter of the king’s laws, seems reasonable”.

Salzar suggests talking to multiple sources, clearly distrusting elven judgement. Sti’vun suggests approaching some of the children but then thinks better of it. Salzar suggests that Wrenn might speak to some children, being on their level. Wrenn gives Salzar the finger.

Annoyed, Wrenn looks around for a criminal element. He spots a dogfight down an alleyway off of the market but chickens out and doesn’t want to get involved. He mentions this to Jason but he’s like “Nah”.

The party decides that they’re wasting time and to just head to the palace, there are banners hanging from the walls with the coat of arms: a crown. Approaching the gatehouse and presenting their letter from Xander, the portcullis is raised and our adventurers enter the royal palace.

The Palace

A second row of guards past the gatehouse open heavy doors and allow the party into the great hall, at the end of which sits the Lord Protector. His hair and beard are grey, but he’s still wearing tough leather armour; he greets the adventurers and invites them to sit with him.

After some introductions, Jason brings up the letter that the group received. After a caveat that the following information should never leave this room, Xander reveals that the Crown Princess is missing. She was part of a delegation to Askor, but her carriage never reached the city. The same people responsible for the attacks on Woodcrest have kidnapped her. Enna asks why he trusts the party, and Xander replies that the competence that was shown at Woodcrest was commendable.

Enna asks if the pricess had a boyfriend, or if there was a ransom note; the answer to both is “no”. Xander provides more detail: the princess was kidnapped three weeks ago, and with the king being sick this is a disaster for the monarchy. He mentions that they’ve had no luck using magic to locate the princess, which could mean that she’s a great distance away.

After a nod from Jason, Wrenn hands over the letter that they found in the goblin stronghold back in Woodcrest. The Lord Protector is troubled, by the image of a broken crown and supposes that somebody wants to break apart the monarchy.

Salzar insults Xander by saying that he has no knowledge of the arcane, but as they meet eyes Salzar goes uncharacteristically quiet. This doesn’t escape the attention of the rest of the group.

Finally talking business, Jason asks what kind of reward could be expected. Xander explains that there will be a royal reward, and that everybody would be richly compensated. Sti’vun asks if there will be an advance, and manages to persuade the Lord Protector to part with 50 gold pieces.

Enna makes Wrenn the butt of another short joke by asking if Xander can provide 5 horses and a pony for the party, but the stables are overstretched.

Adventure Time!

The party leave the palace and the city of Ponterin via the east gate, after stopping off at an apothecary to buy some healing supplies. They make quick time, travelling across coastal moorland until they reach the town of Erinport. Deciding that their mission is too important to stop, the group push on northward.

A couple more hours of travel and the light begins to fade, the sun dipping below the Frostback Mountains. The travellers make camp just off the road and settle down for the night, with Wrenn and Sti’vun taking first watch. The night is quiet until during the second watch, where Jason and Enna spot a gnoll and swarms of rats heading towards the camp. There’s just enough time to wake everyone and get into formation before they are set upon.

Finally We Get To Kill Something

Helge immediately throws one of his darts into the darkness but misses entirely, Wrenn then draws his bow and fires an arrow into the thick hide of the gnoll. Salzar hexes the gnoll and casts lightning into the darkness but it hits nothing as far as he can tell.

While running towards the party the gnoll launches its spear at Enna, lodging it deftly in her shoulder. The rats surrounding the gnoll swarm past it and Jason breathes fire over them as they approach. This thins the swarm slightly but the rest quickly reach the front line of the party.

Enraged by the spear through her shoulder, Enna draws her swords and skewers several rats as they swarm around the group. Sti’vun follows suit and slices at the rats with his sword as they try to climb up him; leaping forwards he crushes more with his forearm. Helge joins his fellow monk, stabbing at rats as they pass and then enthusiastically stamping on any that he missed.

Wrenn, still at the back, fires another arrow at the gnoll but misjudges the shot and misses. Jason also flounders, slashing at rats with his longsword, hitting nothing but dirt.

Salzar casts lightning again at the gnoll, this time hitting it. The gnoll’s face blisters under the heat and it roars horribly in pain. It runs forwards, almost blind with rage, and bites Jason. Luckily Jason’s armour saves him from being gored by the gnoll’s dagger-like teeth, though he’s still covered in gnoll slobber.

The rats surrounding also bite him but can’t penetrate his armour either. Sti’vun is not so lucky: in his monk robes, the rats easily climb up his legs gnawing and chewing.

Enna, noticing that the gnoll is now close, takes revenge for the spear. She dashes forwards and thrusts both of her swords into the gnoll’s sides, tearing away flesh. The gnoll is seriously wounded but still just standing. Sti’vun and Helge run to aid Enna in taking down the gnoll. Sti’vun slashes at the gnoll with his sword which bounces off the thick hide, but lands a punch squarely on its hyena-like maw. Helge, spotting an opening, plunges his sword into the gnoll’s throat; as it collapses to the floor, Helge’s victory dance crushes more rats underfoot.

Wrenn, suddenly having an idea, drops his bow and crawls across the ground to speak with the rats and see if he can convince them to leave. Sadly realising that the rats are beyond reasoning, he skewers several with his daggers.

In the heat of battle, the party then go apeshit at the rats. Salzar barbecues some with lightning; Enna stabs at the ground around her, building up rat-kebabs on her dual swords; Sti’vun squishes rats left right and center with his bare fists; Helge stabs the rats closest to him, then spin-kicks several more into the distance; Wrenn crawls around on the floor between his comrades’ feet, picking off rats with his daggers.

With only two more rats left, Jason raises his longsword impressively, lining up his shot. Just before he can bring his sword down, Salzar casts lightning one final time and fries them all.

Adrenaline pumping, the party settle back down. They spend the rest of the night peacefully.

Progress?

The party wakes up bright and early the next morning feeling surprisingly rested. They head back onto the north road and after 2 and a half hours they reach a bridge over a narrow river. An hour after that the group reaches the edge of a forest, a couple more hours later they’re walking alongside a larger river.

Enna and Helge, who are scouting ahead, see the shape of a carriage far in the distance and off of the path. They can see that it’s sitting low, perhaps missing its wheels, and there’s no horse in sight. Enna sees what looks like a thin trail of smoke drifting up from the same area.

Gathering together the party, they slowly make their way towards the carriage, suspiciously searching for traps. The carriage is very ornately decorated with gold and silver leaf; Enna notices the royal crest on the side of it and the party assumes that it’s the one that the princess was travelling in.

One of the doors of the carriage is hanging off, and it’s clearly been ripped open by something large; Jason peers inside but there’s nothing there.

Finally thinking he’s out of range of Xander’s influence, Salzar reveals that the Lord Protector is psychic and spoke to him while the party was discussing the missing. This could mean that he’s not telling them everything.

The party remember that from afar they saw smoke around the caravan, but can no longer see it. This confuses them, and Salzar wanders back to check if the smoke is still there when viewed from afar – it is. Wrenn determines that if it were an illusion then it would require a very powerful magic user to cast it.

Jason decides that he wants to move the carriage to see if there’s anything underneath. Together, the group heave the broken vehicle aside and beneath it find a very old and ornate sword. After a little examination Wrenn says that the sword is Ancient Odreïan style, and you might associate it with Askor, but there’s nothing magical about it.

Jason takes the sword, stowing it safely in his pack.

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Episodes 1 and 2 (the Miniseries)
An expedition to Woodcrest

Our party is on the road to Woodcrest, a tiny logging village on the border of Aarnekas, nestled in the Frostback Mountains. The town has been beset by monsters, who are disrupting the trade caravans through the village, working in unusual coordination and cutting off the village’s food supply.

About an hour from their destination, they’re ambushed by goblin archers and giant rats. The novice combatants get off to a rough start, but fight valiantly and make their way through, albeit with a few scrapes and a couple of unconscious allies, who recover on their way along the road.

In Woodcrest itself, they gravitate towards the pub, being as it’s the only thing to actually do in town. There’s a subdued atmosphere; a few weeks living on scraps will do that to people. They take beverages and stew and make inquiries into the current situation; Merrick, the halfling landlord, points them towards the town guard, Anya.

Anya is a gruff and heavy-built woman who is nonetheless delighted by the newcomers’ forthrightness. The monsters are led by hobgoblins and have taken refuge in the old town watchtower, a few hours’ walk up the ridge into the mountains. However, it’s late in the afternoon, and making an attack on an enemy in unfamiliar terrain in the dark is… ill-advised. The party take rooms for the night and sleep soundly thinking of the promise of the town’s reward.

The group set out first thing in the morning. Anya sees them off, but declines to come with them. The journey up the ridge is arduous but uneventful, and they reach the old tower shortly after noon. The tower is really now only a stump; the centuries have not been kind. It sits on a rocky shelf overlooking Woodcrest and the rest of the valley. The huge oaken doors are closed, so some of the group scout around and discover a gap at the top of the rear wall, which is sightly more crumbled than the rest.

The plan is for a two-pronged attack: half the group will scale the rear wall, while the rest will barge through the front door. Ever tried to climb a crumbling stone brick wall quietly? Yeah, it’s about as easy as you’d imagine. After several failed attempts, one adventurer manages to scramble up to find three orcs inside already alert, weapons drawn.

The battle is frenzied, with the orcs freely charging around between the top of the rubble ramp leading to the crack in the wall and the opened door. At one point Jason Dragonborne tries to jump the 15 feet down from the top of the wall, but lands on Salazar instead. Salazar himself rounds the corner to the front door to be immediately felled by two orcs with greataxes.

Somehow, the orcs are taken care of.

The only things of note in the circular tower are a campfire with something foul-smelling on a spit, and a trapdoor, with a ladder leading down into gloomy dank darkness.

At the bottom of the ladder is a stone corridor the same age as the tower, probably storage for the soldiers garrisoned here. A short way down the corridor is a narrow crack. The adventurers squeeze through (smaller people first) and find a natural cave. At the opposite end a couple of kobolds, cowering out of fear. Jason carefully makes his way through the room, noticing the tripwire just in time to not trigger it. He tries to parlay with the kobolds, guessing their shared draconic heritage would give them common ground. His knowledge of nature did not, however, include the fact that kobolds are vicious and bloodthirsty, although the thrown rocks make the point rather nicely.

The battle is quick; kobolds are wily but ultimately quite squishy. Even the winged kobold was easily taken care of once it ran out of rocks to drop on people.

Meanwhile, out in the corridor, Enna has being standing guard, which she took to mean “have a poke around”. So it’s Enna who sees the goblin who’s been sent to investigate what in Odreïn the commotion is. He immediately sounds the alarm and slams the door behind him.

Enna follows and finds two plain old goblin and one that’s slightly burlier, slightly gnarlier, slightly more boss-like. He and one of the goblins charge at the half-elf, slashing with scimitars and retreating, while the other fires its shortbow.

Clearly outmatched, Enna runs back down the corridor, in time for the rest of the party to emerge from the kobold cave. The goblins pursue. Now caught amidst the entire party, one goblin is quickly dispatched, and the goblin archer in turn receives an arrow between the eyes.

The remaining goblin immediately drops his scimitar and offers his surrender. His name is Glup; the hobgoblins had forced his band of goblins to work with them. The party debate what to do with the hapless goblin. A conclusion of murder is quickly reached until Olovit remembers he’s actually an alright guy and maybe this goblin has some good in him after all.

No small amount of coercion with pointy things later and Glup has agreed to give up his life of crime, and help attack his former hobgoblin brethren, and even give up his hidden treasure of a meagre amount of gold and a healing potion.

The party storm the next room. Inside, a hobgoblin and two further goblins. The hobgoblin immediately kicks the table on its side, sending maps and papers fluttering into the air, and begins firing arrows from his longbow. The goblins charge.

The goblins are short work, especially with Glup’s knowledge and mirroring of their hit-and-run tactics. Enna attempts to leap over the table and dispatch the hobgoblin with one swift stroke of a blade. Key word there being “attempts”; instead she succeeds in shoulder-barging the table.

As the hobgoblin is taken care of, Glup slips out unnoticed. In the storeroom is a chest containing 40gp worth of spoils.

Among the strewn papers is a letter of orders, unsigned, marked only with a stamp of a broken crown. An adventurer notices it looks somewhat like the crown from the arms of the kingdom of Aarnekas, but had never seen it broken like that.

The party makes it back to Woodcrest as night falls, and find an extremely grateful Anya, who rewards them with 175gp.

They head to the inn for a well-deserved rest.

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