In the previous episode, which has since been chronicled in poem form by Keru, the party explored a network of waterlogged caves, lost a friend, and uncovered clues indicating that the orc mage Torgoch might have gone from here to a tower on the other side of the river.
The Road to the South
Heading South along the trade road, looking for a place where it might be possible to get the cart down to the river’s edge and cross, the party met a halfling trader leading a caravan the other way, who advised that they stay on this side of the river and sold them some wine, spices, and the opportunity to copy his map in exchange for some of their loot. Later, they met a wildcat protecting its stake in a recent kill, but Lythil used his animal communication skills to explain that the party weren’t a threat, and it left peaceably: a far better result than his experience with the wolves outside of Kreutzhofen a fortnight earlier.
Further down the road they shared food and a camp with a band of gypsies, where – while Lythil scouted ahead for the next day’s travel and Newman and Bret slept – Keru used his charm in an attempt to initiate a threesome with a pair of nubile young ladies. He was swiftly caught and cautioned by members of their family (who’d clearly planned this encounter all along), who demanded compensation for the insult to their hospitality: Keru paid up, but then over a series of gambling games retrieved his coin.
Crossing the River
Down by the riverbank, the party argued over the best way to cross: Lythil favoured constructing a raft, while Bret preferred the idea of using magic to simply levitate everybody across. Eventually, Bret simply started with his plan, but he’d only gotten the cart half-way over when his spell failed, dropping the vehicle into the water.
“I can fix this!” Bret shouted, as the cart disappeared downstream. He transformed into a vulture and flew after it, landing on the deck of the makeshift vessel and transforming back before realising that he didn’t really have a plan beyond that point. Meanwhile, Keru and Lythil jumped aboard the draft horses and tried to race downstream after the runaway craft, but Keru never really learned to ride and couldn’t get his horse to cooperate. Lythil came alongside the craft and shouted to Bret to tie a rope to the cart and throw it ashore, but without being able to see what he was doing Bret was unable to get a knot to take. Finally, re-attempting his spell, he was able to lift the cart out of the water and deliver it safely to the other side.
Meanwhile, Lythil pushed a different approach: using an eddy at the corner of the river and ropes tied in turn to each of the cart, the party members, and the horses, he used the current to ‘swing’ them across the river (while each held their breath and their possessions tightly).
The Lone Tower
Ashore, the party made their way up to the tower, where – given that it was the coincidence of Lythil and his player Owen’s birthdays (14 Pflugzeit and 4 June, respectively), we marked the occasion by using a sculture of the tower in cake rather than the usual dull floorplans-and-pictures (with thanks, of course, to Ruth and JTA for the creation of the cake).
What was formerly the stables of the tower had become home to a mother bear and her cubs, and Lythil once again made his animal empathy useful by sending them away into the woods. Scaling the tower and entering via the roof, the party discovered more animals that were unhappy to see them: a colony of rooks. Once more, Lythil proved himself invaluable as his bird calls kept the pecking creatures away… although they continued to swoop threateningly low and make aggressive calls whenever anybody trod too-near to their nests.
Atop and within the tower the party discovered, among other things, notes suggesting that Torgoch and his warband stayed here for several months before heading to a stone circle at the South end of the valley. After securing the tower the party made it their home for the night before setting out to the South, trekking into the edges of the Twisted Lands – a part of the forest blighted by the taint of chaos.
Their first encounter in this new terrain took place in a large clearing filled with partially-gnawed statues, often showing an expression of terror on their faces. This was the home of a wild basilisk, an octopedal monster with a petrifying gaze. Efforts to chase the beast down were foiled by its rapid, darting movements, and early attempts to rain arrows and crossbow bolts onto it were hampered by its thick hide, leaving the beast able to bring its magical malady to bear on the party: Keru was the first to be afflicted, his joints stiffening as he tried to position himself to line up the best shot.
But it was Bret who turned the tide of battle, swooping down in his vulture form to put his claws into the beast and cast the spell that rendered it blind. Panicked, the creature turned and retreated into the forest, but a hail of missiles stopped it in its tracks, and the menace was slain.
Now the party continues on, deeper into the Twisted Lands and towards the stone circle they believe lies beyond. But will they survive the journey? And what will they find at its conclusion?