[8 Mirtul 1372]
As the decapitated corpse of a troll lies burning nearby, Antonov decides he will be better off traveling on his own and trying to avoid attention. He departs, as does Mellia, as she decides to offer to teach her Scorching Ray spell for barter in Xantharl's Keep. With Ellywick setting off to investigate the mysterious cause of the troll raids (and Nakor still absent), the group is reduced to just three. Fortunately, Fargrim has recovered from the strange trance induced by his encounter with the ghost outside of Xantharl's Keep.
The three adventurers decide to head further south along the Long Road. That evening, while Fargrim stands watch, a troll manages to sneak into the group's camp and attack Markus's steed. Alerted by the horse's distress, the group rouses and prepares to fight. The cunning troll literally picks up the horse and throws it into the group's campfire, temporarily blinding all but Fargrim. The battle between Fargrim and the troll is a brutal one, but the troll manages to stagger away after mortally wounding the dwarf. Fortunately, Cain's healing magicks save Fargrim's life.
[9 Mirtul 1372]
The group decides to head to Grunwald, slightly off the Long Road to the east. There, they find a collection of a few dozen stone mounds, home to the Thunderbeast Uthgardt barbarians. A pavillion dedicated to Tyr has been established in the south-east part of the village, and, after entering, the group quickly realizes that Grunwald is preparing for battle. A troll warband had been spotted at the edges of Lurkwood, heading for Grunwald. The trio of adventurers generously offer to stay and help defend the village. Markus pitches in by making javelins, Cain finishes constructing a spear, and Fargrim speaks to Gundar, the tribe's chieftan.
That evening, the attack comes. Fargrim and most of the Thunderbeast barbarians are drawn into battle on the eastern side of the village, while Cain, Markus, and the Tyran warrior-priests remain vigilant elsewhere. Suddenly, a low rumbling is heard and a massive troll bursts out from the ground in the center of the village. Adorned with a pale red ring and metallic shards for teeth, the troll grabs hold of Cain and takes a deep bite out of the cleric's midsection. Markus rushes to his aid, and the warriors are pleased at the timely arrival of Mellia to aid their struggle. The troll leader, Ironteeth, loses his grip on Cain and tunnels back underground, before popping up near the eastern part of the village. His attacks devastate Markus, who had charged over on his steed, but Fargrim rallies the barbarians to charge and Ironteeth is again driven away by their attacks and Mellia's and Cain's spells.
With the other trolls dead or escaped, Gundar concludes that Ironteeth may be hiding out in a series of tunnels that lay underneath Grunwald, part of an ancient Dwarven city. It has long been the way of the Thunderbeast tribe to forbid anyone from venturing into the tunnels, but Gundar communes with his tribal spirits and determines that Fargrim, and Fargrim alone, has the right to enter and vanquish Ironteeth once and for all.
Director's Commentary (October 24, 2013)
This session continues the concept that trolls are swarming all over the area around the Long Road because they've been pushed out of the Evermoors by something even worse. The hope is that by introducing these story elements organically, the campaign world seems more realistic and the players get the sense they're part of something bigger than a series of random encounters.
I was actually somewhat surprised that the group volunteered to stay and help defend the village of Grunwald, as at the time (and still today) I didn't have a good sense of their overall morality. Anyway, I wanted to give them a taste of being part of a battle that was much larger than just themselves and some enemies, and the attack on Grunwald featured barbarians, warrior-priests, etc. The battle did show the limitations of playing with limited table-space, as I wasn't able to fit on everything I wanted. It also showed how it's quite cumbersome to run too many NPCs and enemies in a single encounter in D&D 3.5, and I ended up having to handle the fighting that the PCs weren't directly involved in by generalizing results (all the trolls roll one attack roll, all the barbarians roll one, etc.). With better preparation, things might have gone more smoothly, but I didn't actually know if the PCs would visit Grunwald at all and there's a point where you don't want to sink too much effort into something that may never eventuate.
The Wife was still in Canada during this session, and always tells a sweet story about it. We play late at night in Australia, so its early in the morning in Canada. The Wife called me to chat during a break in the session, but wasn't able to play because she was watching Boomer. After the call, she said to her mother, with a sigh, "they're fighting trolls . . ." Her mom was kind enough to offer to watch Boomer, so The Wife dialed back and Mellia arrived just in time to help save the day with her fire spells.
The cliffhanger, with Fargrim designated as the only one allowed to enter the tunnels below the city to fight Ironteeth, had to be handled off-screen because Fargrim's player had one of his rare absences in the next session, and when he returned the story had moved well beyond Grunwald. In retrospect, with more imagination I could have figured out a way for him to still have that encounter . . .