Sunday, 19 August 2007

KHYBER RISING PART II

SESSION II
KYBER RISING Part II Mid-afternoon to early evening. Day One.

The characters had a surprise as they left the mine. To the West, a great red shaft of light pierced the sky, parting the clouds and causing a light rain to fall. They didn’t need a clear view of the island to realise that the light came from the stumps. Somewhat alarmed to say the least and carrying their near-comatose charge with them, the party hustled back to town as swiftly as Constance`s sheltered upbringing would allow.

Arriving back at Bronce, they found the town in an uproar. Father Morton was no-where to be seen as the villagers rapidly packed what belongings they had into packs or loaded them on to wagons and mules. The Sheriff was trying to organise the shambles into some sense of order, persuading the locals to leave what few valuables they owned behind and to take only food and water.

Adriana observed that suddenly the locals didn’t seem to feel so confident about the Sword anymore.

They learned from the boys grateful mother that the “Red Spear” had struck the sky only just over an hour ago, presumably about the same time as the party entered the mines, and that the “Black Ships” had been sighted moving in on the coast.

After a hurried explanation of the Hobgoblins ransom demands (watched by a tearful mother demanding to know why it had been her child that was left behind) Ruz brought up the matter of the murdered tax collector. He did not fail to notice the sudden flash of guilt that crossed his face. After some prodding the sheriff admitted that he knew. Indeed, half the town seemed to share this dirty little secret. An outraged Bagson demanded to know why the Sheriff hadn’t done anything about it, only to receive an incredulous look.

“I`m sixty-two years old, I have more old wounds and aching bones than you`ll experience in a dwarves lifetime and my only deputy is a fifteen year old boy whose never had to shave let alone had a woman. Why in the Gods name do you think I haven`t done anything? You do something if you like. Me? I`m busy here!”

Bagson didn`t have much to say to that and a burial party was quickly organised for the corpse of the tax-collector, which Nine had carried down the mountain.. Satisfied that they now had at least the grudging permission of the law on their side, the party left Young Morton behind to help the sheriff and set off at a fairly rigid pace to rescue the tax-money from Big Jim`s mill.
The party did not approach recklessly however, after all, their only healer had exhausted his spells and they faced four men whom, or so the Sheriff had it, were seasoned adventurers. Constance refused to be left behind. Saying they needed every crossbow they could find, and placed several magical infusions on Nine to strengthen his weapons and another on Thutson to enchant his weapon.

With that, the party approached the mill not from the front gate, but from a gap in the hedge to one side. Constance, Adirana, Bagson and Clifford formed the missile group which circled round to the right, ready to cover the door to the mil building, while Nine and Thutson moved through the gap in the hedge up the centre, looking to head down the small path between the storage shed and what appeared to be a small cottage. Raz meanwhile circled round to the left, crossbow in hand, to guard that flank.

The battle started badly. Jim’s dogs, three savage brutes, burst from the cottage at the characters approach and made straight for Nine. Fortunately, although not one of the groups archers actually managed to hit a dog, the hounds found that Nine`s rough adamantine and wood skin hurt their teeth. Unfortunately, that simply meant they turned on the less well protected Thutson, who was savaged badly by the dogs before he and Nine finally put the last one down. Meanwhile Adriana set about lighting the shed and cottage roofs with fire-arrows.
No sooner had they done so that Thom, the first and largest of Jim`s band, burst from the mill itself. Glistening all over with a strange grey-ish oil and wielding a massive great-axe, the huge warrior let out a howl of rage and made straight for the missile group, leaping across the hedge and into melee with Clifford, ignoring the wounds he had taken from three crossbows in the process.

This was too much for Constance, who seemed to turn and flee at this point.

Jim himself followed, throwing himself into combat with nine and the wounded Thutson, shaking off a Whim spell cast by Raz in the process, and immediately setting about the raging barbarian and the war forged warrior. Thutson fell almost immediately, taking a hefty blow first from Jims axe, them a vicious uppercut with the Rim of his shield. He fell to the ground unmoving and near-death (on -9 hit points and spending the First Action Point of the Battle to auto-stabilise - if he hadn’t he would have died at the beginning of his next initiative).

The next to emerge was Halton, the Scout sprinted half-way from the mill to the cottage wall, stopping half-way to launch a wickedly accurate crossbow bolt that struck Ruz full on the chest, dropping the Changling behind the hedge. Fortunately however, the Changling had strength enough to crawl out of harms way, behind a small fold in the ground. Things were looking bleak however, in their first round of entering the combat, Big Jim`s boys had dropped two of the fellowship. The battle had barely begun and yet the odds looked bleak.

It would grow darker still, not long after Jacko revealed that he was indeed a powerful wizard, launching a pair of shining purple orbs that struck Nine with a deep, resounding thud, leaving behind the noise of tortured metal and burning wood. For the first time in his life, Nine knew real pain, greater by far than the mere scratch inflicted upon him by the hobgoblin at the Stumps.

And then the third party member fell.

Though pierced and battered by crossbow bolts, bludgeoned by Clifford, slashed by Bagson and sneak-attacked by Adriana, the howling Thom refused to fall. His oily bloody and ragged hide cloak were both matted with deep red, arterial blood, yet still he fought on, cleaving Clifford with a blow that near tore the Favoured Soul in Two (Second Action Point, spent to stabilise).
Realising how dire their chances looked, Nine called upon every ounce of strength and courage he had to land telling blows on Jim, (spending four action points in the process) yet the determined thug simply would not go down. Even his infusion enhanced Adamantine body could not protect him form the fury of Jims axe, and as the partys last true melee specialist began to fail, it seemed like it was all over for the characters.

But Constance had not fled, she had worked her way steadily into a position where she could fire on Hal from behind and above. Though so far she had missed twice, her bolts landing so far from the mark that Halton had simply ignored her, her third shot flew true, striking the scout through the back of the chest and piercing his heart. (Typically, she had rolled a critical threat on her first ever successful attack roll, scoring 12 damage on a character with only 10 hit points).
The players (and presumably the characters too) let out a cheer at the sigh, and Constance seemed unphased when Jim, seeing the whole thing, roared angrily “You`ll pay for that b&!%@!”.

But the tide had turned, and the party new it. Only moments later, a sneak attack from Adriana (which hit thanks to the Seventh Action Point of the Session) finally dropped the rampaging, monstrous Thom.

Jim was not concerned though. Three of his foes were down, the last skilled warrior was near de-activation and of the reaming three, two had suffered at the hands of Thom and the last was a scared slip of a girl who`d near dropped her crossbow when he’d threatened her. He only swore vengeance and continued to fight.

Jacko was not so confident, he’d used his last decent spell trying to drop Bagson and failed, though he left the dwarves warrior nearly spent. Always the coward of the group, he shouted “Run Jim”, and fled with the benefit of his last spell - Expeditious Retreat.
Big Jim howled in rage, and took one last swing at Nine before turning to run. Even spending his last action point, Nine couldn’t land a blow on the retreating warrior. It seemed Jim would escape.

But they had reckoned without Raz. Dismayed and angered by the sigh of Thutson lying seemingly dead (and having a player who knows a recurring villains when he see’s one) Raz rose from his crouch and used the last of his strength to fire his still-loaded crossbow at Jims back. He missed, but decalred that an action point would be spent, despite being told he needed to roll a six. We watched in mingled horror (from me) and fascination as, without preamble, Raz’s player rolled a six and dropped the fiend to negative hit points.

After the ensuing celebration (which Raz himself did not remain conscious to see), the standing party members gathered their wits and spotted Jacko heading for the causeway and the stumps as fast as his skinny legs and flapping robes would carry him. But the elation was short lived. Three of their friends were down and most of the remainder near death. As the lightest and fastest of the four victors, Adriana was dispatched back to town without ceremony to fetch Father Morton.

In the meantime, with the shed and cottage burning merrily about them, the others decided to search the mill.

“I just hope the money wasn’t in one of those.” Constance was heard to comment quietly. Luckily (although I WAS tempted) the treasure -and a small armoury- proved to be in the mill house itself. While Nine loaded the captured weapons onto the mills mule, Constance and Bagson found a small chest under the floorboards.

Not long after Adriana returned with a very cross Father Morton (who was not pleased about having been left out of the fight) and the parties injured were quickly healed. Adriana and Raz then proceeded to open the chest, after first disarming the trap that guarded it, and examine the contents. They found the tax money did not quite add up to a mere 1000gp, but were confident that the other items and art objects contained therein would increase the haul to the required 2000gp. There was some talk of keeping some of the money or else using some of the weapons they had found as barter but Father Morton soon put a stop to that.

He also claimed the weapons and armour (minus those the party had chosen for themselves - Constance, Clifford and Thutson got a breastplate each, while Adriana was happy to acquire Constance`s cast off Masterwork chain shirt and Raz claimed Haltons masterwork but damaged studded leather) for the towns militia, pointing out that the townsfolk needed them more the characters needed cash.

Bagson complained about this as well, but the good father simply replied, “Consider it a gratuity for all that free healing”.

Once again, Bagson did not have much more to say about that.

Beneath the chest, Bagons detect magic spells sensed something in the recently disturbed earth. Reaching his hand into the soil, he felt it clasps around the haft of something thick and wooden. Lifting it from the soil, the party were near-blinded by a blue-csytalline flash. As Bagons held the sword aloft, all could see that he held in his hand a strnagely crafted wooden sword, still ozzing living sap upon the blade and veined with what appeared to be blue crystal.
All the shardborn present felt a strange affinity for the sword, as if the had just seen a friend long missed hale and in good health. All except Bagson, who paused only to complain:

"What the hell are we going to do with a wooden sword!"

It was at this moment that Raz pointed out. "Well, Father Morton was right about one thing, thats no human design. Xenophon was a hob-goblin."

As the party rushed back down the hill and into town, the first of the Black Sailed Ships moved into sight around the hills. Still a few hours from landfall, the company nevertheless took note, and redoubled their efforts to return to the Mine.

Another surprise awaited them there.

Gone were the scrappy, dishevelled hobgoblin brigands from before. Instead, they found themselves marched down mine shafts packed tight with fierce, chanting, yelling hobgoblin warriors in full, matching armour and uniforms of Red and Dark Blue. The hobgoblins chanted in some strange foreign tongue (not goblin) none of the party could understand. Fearful of their lives, and wondering where these hobgoblins came from, and whether the hobgoblin who`d made the deal was still in charge, they were lead swiftly to the lift shaft.

The hobgoblin leader awaited him there. Gone were the wounds from before, seemingly magical healed. His cloak was of the deepest midnight blue, his sword and armour of the finest quality . The guards beside him carried banners adorned with some strange runes. His very bearing was altogether different, this hobgoblin carried himself like a King, not a tribal chief. Yet it was undoubtedly the same one. They recognised the scar across his cheek.

This time the hobgoblin spoke eloquently, welcoming them in dulcet tones and perfect common and confiding they had not eaten the boy after all. “Not enough to go round,” one of the banner men joked as the nearby hobgoblin parade laughed. The party were in no doubt this display was not just for their benefit - they were to serve as the bearers of grave tidings to the people of Chillhame. This was no simple pirate raid or barbarian incursion. It was to be a full blown invasion.

“The truce lasts until you reach the village and my general reaches land. . Once the Terror arrives, all truces expire. And this island shall drown in blood.”

At this, the hobgoblins take up the chant “Blood, Blood, Blood!” Banging sword against shield and spear butts against the ground as the party - and the last boy- are escorted back through the heaving throng of orange flesh. To their surprise, they once again reach safety -but not before being accosted by a band of grey-skinned, red-haired dwarves!
As they exit the caves, Bagson is unusually quiet. He believes now that he knows what happened Eberron's lost clan of Dwarves.
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1 comment:

Rhona said...

You write very well.