The Reavers’ Trail

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

Augustus Brandywine's caravan

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.

Glyptodon
This artist’s impression of a glyptodon (by Pavel Riha) inspired the description of the giant pangolin served by the gypsies.

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.

Chaos at the River, by Owen
“Chaos at the River”, as depicted by Owen

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).

Cake Castle

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.

Rooks atop The Lone Tower.

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.

The Basilisk

Basilisk

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?

Help Never Came

Letter: "We are four-and-twenty brave warriors entrapped in the caves of the waterfall..."In the previous episode: after sort-of delivering the remains of Gurin Forkbeard to their final resting place, the adventurers discovered the long-dead body of a dwarf in a crevasse, recently unearthed by a landslide. In his possession was a scroll indicating the location of a dwarven stronghold behind a waterfall further down the valley, and hinting at a powerful artefact hidden there.

The Waterfall Complex

Heading down into the valley, it didn’t take long for the party to find the bridge marked on their map and determine the location of the waterfall. Scouting ahead, Bea found the location and the entrance to the cave while the others concealed their cart off-road and unhitched the horses. Ascending the rock face up to the cave entrance was made easy thanks to Lythil‘s expert climbing skill, although his efforts were somewhat undermined by Bret effortlessly levitating up behind him. Wading into the caves themselves was similarly made easier by Bea leading the way, dragging a rope so that the others could follow, and ‘boosting’ them up to the bridge within.

Entrance to the waterfall complex.While the rest of the party experimented with two (rusted solid) old pulleys, Bea swam beneath the bridge to follow the river upstream, discovering an additional cavern beyond. Rather than explore the well-marked (one might almost say leading) routes to either side of the bridge, the party pulled themselves through the submerged passageway into a cavern on the other side, where they got their first glimpse at one of the complex’s other inhabitants as he disappeared into the darkness.

The party quickly discovered that the caves were now occupied by a band of beastmen who were less than pleased that their home was being invaded. With some careful sweet-talking by Keru (in very broken shared languages) and an exchange of gifts, the party were permitted to continue exploring the caves, although the beastmen kept a wary eye on them from then on. Leaving the creatures in peace, the party pushed on through the caves, levitating up through a chimney in order to find themselves in parts of the caves barely-touched by their former orcish occupiers. There, Newman used his experience of dwarven mining and engineering to find secret passageways and disarm traps, and Lythil cleverly determined the gestures he needed to make to pass through a magical ward into the inner workshop of Hadrin, the father of the messenger whose body the party had found in the pass.

A band of beastmen.

There and elsewhere in the network of winding caves they found further clues about the artefact they sought: long ago, an army of orcs lead by a war chief named Torgoch besieged the dwarves who resided here, eventually managing to force open the portcullis and storm the defences. Here, with the help of the dwarven books, Torgoch discovered the magical powers of a certain stone in his posession, and determined to use it to get back at the orc priests he felt wronged by. Leaving a handful of his forces to defend the caves (who would later, it seems, go on to desert him), he set off into the valley – possibly heading towards a tower marked on a map the adventurers discovered.

Torgoch's mapUnfortunately, Sir Bea drowned while trying to scout out a further submerged passageway, not knowing how long it was and too stubborn to turn back after determining that she would spend a dangerous amount of time underwater. Her body was subsequently raised as a mindless zombie to act as the unholy steed of Bret, much to the distaste of the other adventurers. And this wasn’t the only rift in the party: Keru took a bite from one of Bret’s zombies over a disagreement about who should open a just-discovered secret door, several people expressed suspicion about Lythil’s self-enforced noctural privacy, Newman struggled with the moral and spiritual implications of Bret’s necromancy, and Keru’s booze-fuelled charisma almost landed the group in trouble as often as it opened doors for them.

Can the group find a way to cooperate and continue their quest? How will they cope in the absence of their mighty half-orc friend Bea? We’ll surely see in a future episode…

Prologue

Bogin ForkbeardThe adventurers were brought together into a party by Bogrin Forkbeard, a wealthy dwarf, and hired to transport his father’s remains which were to be interred into the temple of Gazul at the Southern end of Winter’s Teeth Pass. The ashes of his father, Gurin son of Hugen, had been mixed into a barrel of butter in accordance with the traditions of his people, and Bogrin was keen that the job be undertaken by people outside of his own trading company, whom he implied that he could not trust with the job so well as people who had a genuine interest in being paid for the task.

Being that this was the first time that they’d met one another, the adventurers introduced themselves: Lythil, a reclusive wanderer from the far North, Newman, a dwarven cleric of Shallya, Keru, a suave Estalian with a fast fencing hand, Bea, a mighty half-orc with a heavy blade, and Bret, a blind and crippled beggar with a deep knowledge of the mystic arts.

The Bridge at Sonnefurt

They accepted the quest, and set out up the river on a trading cog to Wusterburg, where they equipped a cart and continued on towards the mountains. At Sonnefurt, however, their progress was interrupted by a mob of peasants who’d occupied the bridge and were blocking its use by merchants (efforts by the adventurers to claim that they weren’t merchants failed, not helped by the supply of butter – containing dead dwarf, of course – and wine – Keru’s private collection – they were transporting) in order to try to force the local government to revert a decision to impose a tax on foot traffic across the causeway. The party visited the town hall and attempted a two-pronged plan: while Newman and Lythil attempted to negotiate a truce, Keru attempted to filch a convincing-looking document from which the party might be able to forge a document to suggest that the mayor had already backed down. Amazingly, the former plan worked and the authority to levy taxes on the bridge was turned over to the town’s stonesmasons – who were among the protesters – and the bridge was re-opened.

Sonnefurt Bridge

Later, on the road – now in a convoy of merchant traffic suddenly able to cross the Sonnefurt bridge – the adventurers met some acolytes of Shallya who’d just returned from the Border Princes, where they’d been treating a strange plague. They stopped to pray for a while, and somehow Bret came out of the experience looking more-enlightened than might have been expected.

Kreutzhofen and the Wolves

The party reached Kreutzhofen – the last major settlement before Winter’s Teeth Pass – on the day of the Spring Equinox, and as a result all of the inns were occupied by pilgrims attending ceremonies at the Temple of Taal in the city. While Bea and Lythil set out to camp outside the city, Bret, Newman, and Keru went out to experience some of the town’s nightlife, where (in exchange for buying him a drink) a local farmer called Dun offered them the opportunity to sleep in his barn. As the night came to a close, Keru and (surprisingly) Bret managed to persuade a pair of barmaids (Sally and Ethyl) to return to the barn with them, and Newman needed to climb to the hayloft in order to escape from their afterparty beneath.

Dun tried to sell the adventurers special birchwood talismans which he claimed would magically protect them from wolf attacks (which was how his wife had died). Bret could not detect any magical properties in the jewellery, but that didn’t stop Keru buying one anyway, perhaps just to complete his outfit. It didn’t do any good, though: not half a day up the road a pack of hungry wolves attacked, and the group was forced to defend itself.

Lythil attempted to intimidate the wolves by imitating their sounds, but only managed to anger them (apparently his impression of their noises came out sounding like whatever wolf-speak is for “come at me, bro”). Bea raised her great shield at just the right moment to break the jaw of the first wolf to charge in, but one managed to get its maw firmly around Keru’s majestic codpiece and cause some rather sensitive bruising. Worse yet, one of the two that attacked Lythil managed to take a bite out of his throat while he struggled to get his swords out of their scabbards, and as he clumsily swung back at them he barely grazed them in response. Newman’s mace rang true and Bret provided support by striking blind the jugular-ripping wolf, and eventually – as Bea and Keru’s sword-skills came into their own – the wolves were seem off. Laying his hands on Lythil’s neck, Newman channelled the mercy of Shallya into the wound, healing him, and the party was able to continue on their way.
The Lost Messenger

Winter’s Teeth Pass and the Shrine of Gazul

Spring had come in full force to Winter’s Teeth Pass, and conditions were good and the journey uneventful. Following Bogrin’s map, they were able to find the cairngorm obelisk that marked the beginning of the trail to the temple and, leaving behind the cart, ascend on foot. But when they reached the spot they discovered to their horror that the spring thaws had caused an landslide, collapsing the temple and burying it under a mountain of rock, mud, and snow. While the others tried in vain to dig in the scree, Lythil explored the entrance to a nearby cave, which he thought might lead into the crypts – it didn’t: it was a dead end – but as he explored he discovered a crevasse that had been exposed by the landslide, revealing the long-dead body of a dwarven messenger. Levitating down by the force of Bret’s magic, Lythil retrieved the skull of the unfortunate dwarf and also his ivory scroll case, in which the party found a message that hinted at a mighty artefact concealed behind a waterfall in the Yetzin valley.

Burying the remains of Gurin and the skull of the long-dead messenger as best they could, the party resolved to continue into the Yetzin Valley and seek out the lost artefact… each for their own reasons…