[5 Lamashan 4707 continued]
Having had great success defeating goblin reinforcements sent to guard the entrance, the adventurers decide to push further into the thistle maze. They advance in single file to the north and come to an intersection of sorts, only to find vines and brambles animating and trying to entangle them! Oliver finds himself fully wrapped up, but the others fight their way free and soon realize the source of the verdant attack: Gogmurt. The goblin druid tries to stab Bey in the back with his flaming blade, but she manages to twist away just in time. And in response, she conjures magical fire around herself like a sheathe, leaving herself unharmed but Gogmurt singed. Before their head to head battle can continue any further, Felix picks his way through the writhing undergrowth and launches a single punch at Gogmurt’s face; the blow connects with an audible crack and Gogmurt is instantly knocked unconscious! The Shoanti brawler then finishes the fight permanently by stomping his foe’s skull and crushing it. A subsequent search of Gogmurt’s corpse reveals several enchanted items, including a cloak, a suit of leather armor, and two wands (one of which Bey is able to identify as a wand of tree shape).
Further search of Thistletop’s outer defences reveal an abandoned watch post to the west, a chamber to the east containing little but a matted nest of red and black hair, and a chamber just to the south of that containing the remnants of several meals and gruesome décor. Another abandoned watch post to the northeast offers Felix a first view of Thistletop itself. Connected to the mainland by a swaying rope bridge stands a wooden stockade built atop a rounded, flat-topped island about sixty feet away. Two tall guard towers are visible, and Felix can discern movement within as well as four goblin commandos mounted on goblin dogs performing a regular patrol. He descends from the watch post to formulate a plan with his allies. Bey first suggests trying to swim across, but the daunting height of the cliffs leads to that idea being quickly discarded. Nedrin suggests picking the defenders off from a distance using bows and crossbows, while another idea is floated to set the stockade on fire to draw the goblins out. As the group discuss the pros and cons of various ideas, some members of the party with keen hearing hear shouts coming from the stockade. Although meaningless babble to most, Nedrin is able to translate the shouting: “Gogmurt sent the thrush! They’re on their way!” The hobgoblin ascends the watch post and sees that the mounted goblins have taken up defensive positions on the far side of the rope bridge with shortbows at the ready, and that one has positioned himself to block invaders from setting foot on the island.
|The Rope Bridge|
A plan is quickly settled upon: with Nedrin providing ranged cover with his bow, the other three adventurers will charge quickly across the bridge so that the goblins won’t have time to cut it. Nedrin misses his first shot as Felix bravely charges across the rickety bridge. The skilled pugilist is grazed by a few arrows from the four mounted goblins and the four sentries in the guard towers, and soon finds himself in hand-to-hand combat with the commando blocking his way off the bridge. Bey runs across next, without incident, but the second Oliver sets foot on the bridge disaster occurs! Suddenly, the western ropes tear free from their supports, tipping the bridge on its side! Felix and Bey manage to grab the eastern ropes and hold on, but Oliver doesn’t react quickly enough and falls 80 feet into the surf below! The impact knocks Oliver out cold, and he begins to take in water. In seconds, the unconscious hero succumbs to his sad fate and drowns.
Nedrin, and his coerced ally Grizzlenik continue shooting at targets across the channel. Felix and Bey manage to make it off of the precariously dangling bridge and on to the far side of the island, where they face a brutal fight against the mounted commandos in front of them and the archers above them. Felix fights bravely, elbowing goblin dogs in the face and pummelling other defenders with his fists, while Bey joins with her bardiche. She manages to trick one of the goblins into thinking that Oliver carried secret defense plans for Sandpoint, and the deluded goblin jumps to his death trying to recover them. Felix and Bey establish a beachhead by finishing off the commandos and their mounts, but a fusillade of arrows continue to rain down. Dozens of small wounds take their toll, leading Felix to dive for cover in order to survive; but Bey pulls her crossbow out and fires back at the archers! Meanwhile, across the channel, even more dramatic events occur: Grizzlenik turns on Nedrin again! The goblin fires an arrow at his “master” at point blank range but misses. The two tussle until Nedrin drags Grizzlenik (who is connected by a rope leash around Nedrin’s waste) with him to cling onto the surviving rope strands halfway between the mainland and the island. The two try to stab each other to death but are tangled up so tightly neither can get the right angle. Finally, Grizzlenik tries the most desperate maneuver of all: he tries to cut both strands of the rope bridge! But luck abandons him, as his dogslicer is only able to cut through one of the two strands. Nedrin’s brute strength allows him to get the upper hand, and he stabs Grizzlenik and then cuts the goblin free to send him plummeting to his death below.
|Side view of Thistletop|
Nedrin makes it to the island to join Bey’s exchange of projectiles with the goblins in the guard towers. She shoots one through the elbow and it falls to its death, while Nedrin’s sharpshooting sends arrows through the eyes of two others. Soon, the defenders are silenced. At the base of the stockade, the three adventurers hastily discuss whether to press forward or back. Bey is eager to continue on, but Felix is severely wounded and persuades her that a retreat is in order. With only a single strand of rope now connecting the island to the mainland, even withdrawing has major risks. Felix and Bey manage to make the exhausting hand over hand journey back, but Nedrin slips and falls! Careful planning saves his life, however, as the adventurers tied another strand of rope around Nedrin’s waist with the far end being held by Felix. Nedrin’s fall turns into an arcing swing and he slams into the cliffside with great force. Still, he survives and is pulled up by Felix.
Deciding that a renewed assault is not tenable, at least for the time being, the adventurers decide to try to contain the threat of the Thistletop goblins by cutting the last strand of rope between the island and the mainland. They then make their way out of Nettlewood and back to Sandpoint. They head directly for the Cathedral, where Felix, barely conscious and slumped over his mount, collapses on the ground. Father Zantus rushes to revive the fallen warrior, and the surviving trio of adventurers relate what happened to the town’s Deputy Sheriff. Father Zantus hears about Oliver’s fate, and promises to hold a memorial service in the ranger’s honour.
Bey, Felix, and Nedrin then walk to the Garrison, where they find Sheriff Hemlock and Bosk Hartigan drilling the new recruits on how to march in formation. Despite everything, Sheriff Hemlock is not pleased to hear about Oliver’s death; he berates the group for failing to notice such an obvious trap given the animal cunning possessed by goblins and the warnings that the Thistletop tribe had the most heavily fortified goblin lair in western Varisia. Nor is Sheriff Hemlock mollified by the destruction of the rope bridge, stating that the Thistletop goblins could very well escape by boat to continue whatever plans they have for Sandpoint. He says that he’s trying to get the recruits up to basic proficiency as quickly as possible, but if the adventurers plan to raid Thistletop again, they might find Shalelu’s leg has healed and that she’s up to the task of accompanying them.
Shalelu is sharpening arrows at a table in the common room in the Rusty Dragon when the adventurers seek her out. She is deeply saddened to hear about her old friend’s death, and keen to avenge him. She promises to hire a small boat from the Mercantile League so that the adventurers can approach Thistletop by sea, scale the cliffs, and perhaps catch the tribe by surprise. While she sets off to make the necessary arrangements, Nedrin and Felix discuss a plan to try to smoke out the Thistletop goblins so that they leave their fortified stockade and can be dispatched in the open. To this end, they visit Nisk Tander’s shop and, after some haggling and a deal to promote Bottled Solutions when they act in Cyrdak Drokkus’s next play, the two adventurers leave with a bundle of smoke sticks each.
Bey is waiting outside for the pair, and relates distressing news. Her revelations have revealed to her a simple truth: if Bey accompanies the adventurers to Thistletop, everyone will die! Bey says that she has foreseen every possible permutation, and that the only scenario with a chance of success is one in which the adventurers go without her but are accompanied by Shalelu and another figure she doesn’t recognize. Having relayed the ominous news, Bey bids the adventurers farewell for the near future and sets off to talk about Thassilon with Brodert Quink.
The morning’s raid on Thistletop proved a pyrrhic victory; the adventurers established a beachhead but could not hold it, and lost one of their teammates in the process. Now, they plan to approach by sea rather than land, guided by the expertise of Shalelu Andosana. But who is this mysterious stranger Bey foresaw in her mystical glimpse into the future?
Director's Commentary (23/04/2017)
This was an exciting and memorable session! It was action-packed and cinematic throughout. Oliver's death was a real tragedy, as although the character was often goofy and always unpredictable, he had a nice niche as Sandpoint's Deputy Sheriff. I felt bad for the player as well since Oliver was his first ever PC. The battle between Nedrin and Grizzlenik could have gone either way, as Nedrin was much higher level but was rolling poorly, while Grizzlenik's luck abandoned him only at the very end when he didn't roll high enough to cut through all of the ropes. The battle outside the stockade on the island was like something out of D-Day, as the defenders poured on fire from above and the attackers had to fight with everything they had not to get pushed off the island. The decision to retreat was probably a sound one, however, as they were hurting pretty bad after the victory. Bey's vision at the end of the session was my in-game explanation for the player's plans to leave on holiday for a couple of months after the session--I thought it was pretty clever, if I dare say so myself!