[2 Kythorn 1372]
After narrowly avoiding being overwhelmed during an attack of orcs, Mellia, Fargrim, and Cain drag their unconscious allies and a captured orc away from the scene of battle. The decision is quickly made that a full retreat from Startop Castle is necessary on the grounds that no place is safe if the orcs return. The recently rescued gnome, Katanya, is amazed at Mellia's spellcasting ability and says that she herself is only an initiate. As she's talking about her lost spellbook, a badger of all things emerges from a nearby pile of rubble. Katanya bends down and begins conversing with it! Katanya tells the others that the badger has told her that someone is trapped in the remnants of a tower that fell over long ago in the courtyard. Fargrim suggests the group should leave as quickly as it can, but Mellia persuades him to investigate.
Inside the darkened fallen tower, Fargrim can make out a shape moving at the far end. He moves closer and quickly discovers it is his former adventuring companion Ellywick! Apparently, Ellywick was captured by the slavers and taken to Startop Mountain. During the party's attack, she managed to flee and tried to hide in the fallen tower, but rocks shifted under her feet and left her trapped. Before Fargrim can come to her rescue, however, he realizes a second too late that something else is in the fallen tower with them--a monstrous, 10'
foot long creature that resembles a praying mantis. The creature's sharp, barbed claws leave several deep gouges in Fargrim's arms and torso before the dwarf dismembers it with his greataxe. With Cain's help, Fargrim is able to lift the fallen rock off of Ellywick just enough that she can wriggle free.
The adventurers have found the last of the straggling horses they had previously set free and decide to ride down the mountain. Katanya is quite reluctant to go as she's concerned about her brother who is still a slave for the orcs, but the others promise her that they will soon return to liberate him. She explains that her brother and herself were originally planning a foray to Startop Mountain while in Mirabar in the hopes of discovering the legendary Artificer's Vault, but that after persuading Lord Feldspar to sponsor the expedition, she and her brother were kidnapped by the slavers.
A few hours later, when the adventurers reach the base of the mountain, they spot campfires nearby. Two large wagons are in the center of a campsite occupied by lizardmen. The reptilian humanoids do not seem particularly vigilant or concerned about attack, and the adventurers decide their best course of action is to simply thunder past at full gallop. The plan works to perfection, and soon the adventurers are some distance from Startop Mountain. As the group charged past, they noticed that a kobold and a huge ogre were among
those camping at the base of the mountain. The group makes it to the well-hidden shelter they had established earlier and rests for the night.
[3 Kythorn 1372]
Upon regaining consciousness, Markus blurts out in Draconic "I can fly!" He seems confused by what he said. Ralkin awakens as well, and both are healed by Cain. Ralkin tells Mellia that the party should have stayed in Startop Castle, as he knows of several safe hiding spots there. Mellia counters that she didn't
know anywhere the group could hide that the orcs couldn't reach. The group fills Ellywick in on Grim's defeat, but Fargrim adds he is still concerned about his missing friend Bearos. Ralkin learns of Katanya's interest in the Artificer's Vault, and recounts his hopes that it is filled with all manner of cunning gnomish traps.
The group discusses two important topics. The first is what to do with their unconscious orc prisoner. Fargrim and Ellywick suggest simply killing him, while Mellia argues for setting it free. The group decides to keep the orc alive for now so that he can be interrogated when he awakens. The second issue
is whether the group should immediately head back up Startop Mountain or journey to Silvermoon or some other place to recruit mercenaries to aid the group. The consensus seems to be for the former. During the day, Mellia works on scribing a scroll, Ralkin scrawls a map of how he thinks the orc caverns must be
arranged, and Ellywick ventures to Startop Mountain and back, having discovered only that the lizardmen and others have disappeared but are probably headed up the mountain trail. As night falls, an argument ensues about watches, as Markus states he would prefer to keep watch on his own, but the others are dubious about his ability after the orc attack. In the end, Ellywick is chosen to keep watch with him.
The group's decision to have two individuals on watch at all times proves to be a wise one. During the night, Ellywick thinks she hears something approaching from the other side of a small rock formation. She tries to approach stealthily to investigate, but before she gets very far huge damp vine-like tentacles shoot
forth from the darkness and smash her against the rock. She slides to the ground unconscious and badly hurt. Fortunately, Markus heard the brief struggle and rouses his allies to fight the attackers: two misshapen plant-like creatures that look like heaps of rotting vegetation. The resulting combat is brief but brutal. Markus leaps aboard his mount and tries to pummel the creatures with his mace, Ralkin slashes them with his claws, Fargrim attacks with his axe, Cain tries to set the creatures aflame but is stymied by their moist skin, and Mellia prepares various enchantments. In seconds, however, Markus, Ralkin, and Mellia have fallen to the creature's attacks and only Fargrim and the cowering Katanya are still standing. Fortunately, with one last surge of strength, Fargrim manages to drop the last aberration. The unconscious adventurers are lucky to
be alive, as only a mysterious burst of healing flame from Cain succeeded in stabilizing their wounds. In the aftermath of the battle, Fargrim maintains watch while Katanya tends to the wounded and examines Mellia's spellbook.
[4 Kythorn 1372]
The fallen members of the party begin to awaken, as does the orc prisoner. Fargrim is determined to interrogate the orc about Bearos' whereabouts, and after failing to detect the orc's thoughts, Mellia magickally empowers the dwarf with the ability to speak and understand Orcish. The orc is quite mouthy and
obstreperous, however, and Fargrim learns little before punching the orc out besides the fact that Bearos was seen passing through the orc caverns on the way to the mysterious Bleak Theatre.
Markus, meanwhile, has made up his mind to depart for Silverymoon immediately, with a commitment to return in the near future. The swordsman indicates that he has been having strange visions lately, and long-ago advice from his father was that, should such a thing happen, he should head north. Apart from Cain, who
says farewell, the others show little interest in the decision.
Director's Commentary (July 10, 2014)
This session was the closest the party has yet come to a full TPK. Those shambling mounds, a random encounter, really did a number on the group because they closed quickly, could grab and constrict, were resistant to fire, and made the group's spellcasters provoke attack of opportunities because of reach. Even Fargrim's victory was a near thing, and one of the players had to use their once-a-year red chip to keep some PCs from bleeding to death.
A reintroduction of Ellywick, who had been absent for some time. Ellywick's player was female, and it was great to have another woman at the table. Unfortunately, she missed sessions frequently, often with no warning, and whenever she did appear, I had to make a last-minute scramble to figure out how to bring her PC back into the picture. I finally had to say, nicely, "Dude, you don't have to attend every session, but you need to attend more-or-less regularly, and give me a heads-up if you know you're not going to be able to make it." I got the sense that she was used to a much more casual style of gaming (I think I mentioned in a previous post that she didn't even pick a name for her PC until after a few sessions of play when I made her), and that an on-going, regular campaign just didn't fit her lifestyle.
I still tease the players about how they handled Markus' announcement that he was leaving the group to trudge through the Evermoors by himself. I'm not sure if they were distracted, or didn't think it was real, or what, but their reaction to the last character who had been around since the very first session leaving was essentially a shrug and "bye." Markus' player wanted to introduce a new PC, who we'll see next session. But don't worry--Markus eventually returns, and the player did a good job of foreshadowing a major character development with the dreams and Draconic speech.