Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Session 2 Part 2: The Invasion Begins


THE INVASION BEGINS - Mid Afternoon of Day 1 to Early Morning of Day 2

The by now very intimidated fellowship rush back to the town, child in tow, to find almost all preparations for the evacuation are complete. Despite all the best efforts of the Sherrif and the two Morton’s, many of the townsfolk have elected to ignore the advice of their betters and take off into the hills alone or in small groups.

As they enter the town, the first wagons of the column have already begun to pull out of the town square, making for the mountain road and the pass to the south-east. From the barely spotted glimpse of blue-and-white robes at the fore, it seems evident that Father Morton himself is leading the way.

Meanwhile, in the square the Sheriff and a small band of volunteers who have hastily donned the armour and weapons captures by the party wait to form a rear-guard. Ruz and the professional warrior types in the party (Nine, Clifford and Thutson), take one look at this motley shambles and polite suggest that the men take the place of honour at the head of the column while the party protects the rear.

A somewhat relieved looking sheriff hobbles off with the men under his command in tow, limping up the column as fast as his aged bones will carry him. As the party tags onto the tail end of the column, the tone and character of the red light changes noticeably. Its low hum increases in pitch to a near scream as mushroom shaped pulses of light begin to shoot up into the air from the stumps, following the path of the “spear” as would a loop of metal hung on a post.

The character notes this ominous change with trepidation, and begin to hurry the villagers along as far as possible.

Although they wait a solid fifteen minutes themselves before heading out after the last of the villagers, is not long before they come across the first stragglers. Among them are the old, the infirm and children accompanied by lone mothers, widows of the Last War. Already at the side of the path, the players past discarded, useless objects, pots, pans, cutlery and so forth, brought along by the fleeing townsfolk despite the advice of the town leaders.

Its not long before the party find these stragglers beginning to fall behind even them. In some annoyance, Adriana runs further up the column to acquire a cart or some other vehicle for these folk who evidently should not be walking. She comes across the very large wagon -a wide bullock-wagon pulled by four of the foul smelling beasts and driven by an even more odious specimen. The drivers cart is packed with food -but also with useless items such as furniture and bed-stuffs. When the man refuses to slow down and ditch his useless weight in favour of passengers, Adriana decides to use her own particular favourite form of persuasion, knocking the fellow of his cart (and into the land of Nod) with the carefully applied argument embodied by a hefty smack from a black-jack.

The other characters help to distribute the food from the wagon upon the shoulders of the healthiest stragglers (those who simply refused to leave the infirm behind) and place those who cant keep up on the wagon-bed. Begrudgingly, Adriana allows the driver to be chucked on the back of the wagon-bed a well, though clearly she’d rather leave him for the invaders.

After another hours travel, the party tops a rise where they can peer down into the bay below. Beneath and behind them, a distance of perhaps no more than four miles as the townsman stumbles, the first of the black-ship’s has begin to disgorge its unwholesome cargo upon the shore. To their horror, the party realises that each ship -and there are dozens of them creeping into the bay- carries at least a hundred troops. And what’s more, the very first one to land carries an additional surprise: the hunched, four legged forms of what can only be Wargs (spotted by Adriana‘s keen senses).

The more military-minded players exchange looks of consternation at this news. They had been counting on the fact any horses in the Black Fleet would require time to settle on dry land again after however many days at sea. They had not counted on the ferocious intelligence and ruthless determination of Wargs. Such creatures would not be troubled by the mountainous terrain the column hoped to use in covering its retreat.

Several of the more aggressive party members, including Thutson, wanted to make a stand there and then. Cooler heads prevailed however, as the ground on which they stood, (at that point, still open, rolling foothills rather than the mountains themselves) was not suited to a desperate rear-guard defence. They had no hope but to press on. Knowing that combat was inevitable at this point, room was made for Constance, Bagson and Clifford on the wagon. All three of these spell casters had exhausted their complement of magic. It was clear that without the support of the spell casters, the expedition was doomed.

(Dms Note: A sensible decision actually, had they decided to stand their ground there, the wargs would simply have ignored them and ran past them to engage the refugees, hoping to kill and wound them in sufficient numbers to slow them enough for the rest of the army to arrive).
Not long after, it seemed that the column ground to a halt. Ruz and Adriana ran swiftly up the column to investigate. To their incredulity, despite everything Father Morton and the Sheriff could do, the townsfolk had decided to stop for a rest and a coked meal.

After a hurried conference with the Sheriff and the good Father, in which both these worthies were quickly filled in regarding the Warg situation, Ruz learned of a natural choke point on the road a few hours ahead, one that a small force could defend adequately for a time. As Father Morton and the Sherrif pressed the hastily organised militia into forcing the refugees to their feet in the strange eerily red light of dusk, the thee Shard-born returned to the rest of the party with news that this natural defence was close by.

They reached the choke point, a narrow ravine in the mountain trail, shortly before the onset of full night. As the wagons were unloaded one by one to be manhandled through the gap, the remaining (awake) members of the party picked their ground and formatted a plan. They would wait until the pursuit cleared the next rise whereupon the foe would be subjected to a barrage of missiles from atop the steep walls on either side. The bullock cart- which by all accounts was too wide to fit through the narrow gap in any case- would be used as a barricade from atop which Thutson, Nine and Bagson would hold the defensive line.

Shortly before the last of the civilian wagons made it through the gap, a chilling howl echoed through the hills. The party had only the barest of moments to register the proximity of their pursuit however, for a mere moment later a red flash appeared in the western sky, above the village, as the stumps themselves seemed to explode in a wave of reddish energy that shook the top of the ships just barely visible in the harbour.

The locals needed no further reminder of why they must hurry through the night, and the last of the wagons sound disappeared over the next ridge. The character were left alone, with only their howls and the strange red light in the sky to distract them from their fears as the moon began to rise.

The characters failed to spot the arrival of the first scouts a mere two hours after they (those who were awake at least) had finished preparing their positions for the fight to come. The six Warg scouts and their mounted hobgoblin passengers did not fancy their chances in a direct assault and slinked off into the night to find a workable path around the position. They failed.
So it was that they returned a further four hours later, as the night entered what would normally have been its darkest phase, were it not from the red reflections against the cloud, by which time the sleeping party members had recovered their strength and rested sufficiently to regain their spells and infusions.

The attack came swiftly and without warning. Five dark shapes leapt over the rise leading down into the ravine (the sixth scout and rider having been sent back with a message by the remainder and barrelled down upon the wagons defenders. They were met by the anticipated barrage of missile fire, which dropped one rider and injured several wargs. With one of the two bow armed Warg-Riders down, the “mount” itself decided to climb the bank even as its companion held its position at the top of the rise, allowing its rider to provide counter-archery fire, and scrambled up the slope to find the archers that had slain its rider.

All four archers (Clifford and Constance on the right, Ruz and Adriana on the left) refused to pass up such a choice target and launched a volley at the Warg as it scrambled up the slope (a climb action, meaning no dex bonus), wounding it terribly. However, this ommission allowed the three wargs with lance armed passengers to reach and engage the wagons defenders without further mishap. However the Wargs were quickly dismayed to find the defenders elevated position meant that they could not bring their own jaws to bear and were forced to rely on the weapons of their riders to win the battle. The three heroes were not so constrained however, and focused their energies on disabling the wargs themselves. One rider was crushed unconscious beneath his dying mount and another finally managed to leap aboard the wagon, every other attempt having been smacked down by then characters with successful attacks of opportunity.

However, this was only possible because Nine had been forced to abandon the line in order to come to the rescue of his colleagues. Above the ravine, the climbing Warg had finally reached its tormentors. Unsure whether or not it should first savage the elf or the changeling, the decision was made for it when Adrian rushed to place the spell-casting Ruz (who had just failed to affect the beast with a whim spell) between her and the Warg. The Warg chomped down mightily on the poor unfortunate Ruz, who once again took serious injuries and was forced to spend an action point to stabilise for the second time that day and the third time in two sessions!

Ruz would prove to be the only friendly casualty of the battle however. With the second Warg at the wagon down and its rider slain, the last Warg and its near-passenger chose that moment to fail a morale check and run for the hills. Neither would live to see the Black Ships again as a series of attacks of opportunity and missile fire from Constance and Clifford brought them low. Seeing this, the last archer and his Warg turned and legged it, hoping to “report” the presence of powerful defenders with the column. The final Warg snarled its hatred at the elf who had wounded it so mercilessly from afar, but simple intelligence one over brute savagery and the beast opted to retreat before being faced with the mighty war hammer of Nine.

The party, battered and bloodied, stood victorious. Elated but relieved. Ruz was quickly healed back t a useful state by Clifford, but the short battle had taken a hefty toll on the heroes.
Constance had used every one of her infusions before the battle to either heal or augment the combat powers of Nine. Clifford had used more than half his spells in the aftermath of the battle to heal the wounded Ruz and Bagson. Meanwhile, Ruz had burned through another Action Point, as had Adriana, Clifford and Constance. Indeed, worst of all, Nine had spent FOUR of the six action points he`d gained upon reaching second level and Bagson had used all but his least powerful spells in this first battle.

Worse, it was not yet dawn, the column had at least another three days march ahead of it and the party could expect a fresh attack at any moment.

It would prove to be a bleak night for the heroes of Bronce.

And how had the Sword of Xenphon spent the battle? Bagson, the dwarf who felt the wooden sword to be useless, had spent the whole battle with it strapped to his back in a hide cover. The groups single most powerful asset hadn`t even been used once in the whole encounter.

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