[19 Kuthona 4707 continued]
The adventurers pause at the sign indicating the direction of Fort Rannick because a minor problem has sprung up: Kozen is sick. Days travelling through the cold and rain have led to her catching a severe cold, and rather than continue on, the group decides it would be best if she (and Taz) stayed behind and built a fire and campsite while everyone else scouts ahead.
The others then continue on, finding themselves travelling along a wide valley that runs along the southern edge of the mountains that separate Kreegwood to the south from the Storval Deep to the north. The landscape is rugged and desolate as they advance, with the thick fog making it hard to see far in the distance. Before long, the adventurers catch a terrible stench on the wind. Strange shapes hanging from trees swing and creak, but only when the adventurers cautiously approach do they realize there are dozens of corpses hung from branches, the bodies impaled with gigantic rusty hooks like meat awaiting a butcher’s block. Sir Roderick recognizes the torn, bloody clothing on some of the bodies as the type that Fort Rannick’s rangers would wear, and already the mystery of the fort’s silence seems partially solved. Goragar speculates the rangers were killed by giants. Shalelu lingers to inspect the face of each corpse before continuing on, seemingly unsatisfied.
The adventurers make out the outline of a fortification a few hundred yards further west. Only a general impression can be gained in the dense fog: a large, walled fort nestled at the base of two sheer cliff sides. The sound of rushing water attests to the presence of a waterfall nearby. Although it’s the middle of the afternoon, the fog, rain, and sudden appearance of lightning in the sky make for an ominous portent. The adventurers decide that Artemis, Kang, and Shalelu should stealthily move ahead to investigate further (relying on the fog to provide concealment from any sentinels), while Goragar and Sir Roderick stay behind. The three scouts approach from the east and see that a small stream serves as something of a moat around the castle’s 15-foot-tall walls. A bridge spans the stream and leads to a pair of battered double-doors. On a parapet above the gate, an ogre scrubs at a human skull, happily singing to himself!
|Fort Rannick in happier times.|
Kang whispers that they need to figure out the layout of the fort without alerting the guard. Shalelu whispers for him to be extremely cautious, as there could be dozens of ogres inside. Kang nods and drinks extracts to turn himself invisible and provide flight. Artemis chooses an isolated section of the outer wall to scale. The distracted ogre notices neither. Kang silently flies through the fort and is able to gather a rough idea of its layout: the walls have an eastern gate and a southern portcullis; stables are near the east gate; a crumbling guard post sits at the bottom of a narrow, blocked path up the mountain to the north; a mouth-watering scent attests to a cookhouse further south; a large wooden building (probably a barracks) is visible to the southwest; and to the northwest, an inner wall protects a stone keep. Kang makes sure the building nearest the east gate (the stables) are empty before returning to the other scouts and relaying what he’s seen.
The trio discuss how to quietly kill the ogre guard and decide that Shalelu should go fetch Goragar and Sir Roderick. Once assembled, the adventurers settle on a rough plan that involves killing the ogre and then occupying its position so that a height advantage will be gained on any ogres that respond.
|Ogres are some of the smallest giant-kin, |
but still pack a whallop!
Artemis begins the operation by quietly scaling the wall, down the other side, and then back up right behind the ogre! Noticing that the ogre’s greatclub is leaning against the wall, Artemis takes it and silently places it inside his magical backpack. He tries to reduce the ogre’s combat effectiveness even more by stealing the small giant’s javelins, but grabs a buttock instead! The ogre lets out with a yelp and turns to confront his assailant. Artemis jumps off the parapet, falling slowly thanks to a magical ring, and Kang flies him to safety. Meanwhile, Sir Roderick takes careful aim with his musket and shoots the ogre in the back! The sound of the gunshot echoes through the valley as Shalelu fires a pair of arrows to finish off the lone sentinel of the east gate. With the entire fort alerted, the adventurers fall back to a nearby copse of trees and adopt a confused succession of plans before running away piecemeal just as the ogre’s reinforcements arrive. Fog makes pursuit impossible, and the adventurers escape to plan another raid.
The adventurers decide that this time, they’ll approach from the southern side with the goal of crossing the bridge, stealthily moving east along the wall, and then scaling an isolated portion of it. Knowing that Goragar’s lack of natural grace and heavy armor makes moving quietly difficult, Artemis gives everyone tips on how to avoid making noise. The second plan is good enough to get the adventurers across the bridge and just before the iron portcullis, but as they turn east, a spike from Goragar’s armor scrapes against the wall and causes a loud screech. Excited babble in Giant language can be heard from just above, and then a trio of ogres jump down ready for battle!
|Many ogres prefer these cruel weapons.|
The resulting fracas is brutal, bloody, and confused. Due to the fog, Artemis, Shalelu, and Sir Roderick find it difficult to pick out targets. Goragar kills one ogre quickly. Kang flies close enough to hurl a bomb that, although it bounces away from where he intended, is still enough to kill another. He pays a price, though, as the third ogre is more heavily armed and armored than his peers (and, oddly enough, features a missing lower jaw to which dead minks have been attached!). This third ogre impales Kang with a massive hook, and the tiefling is lucky to live long enough to retreat. Artemis pinpoints the surviving ogre’s position and lets loose a volley of arrows that cause the monstrous creature to bleed profusely. Goragar stands his ground and matches the massive ogre blow for blow, and it’s the ogre who collapses first! The adventurers hear the sound of reinforcements and know that ogres on the other side of the wall are raising the portcullis, but they decide to keep fighting. Goragar steps into position and assumes a battle stance just as the first wave of ogres rush out!
Clearly, Fort Rannick and the Order of the Black Arrows have fallen to an ogre army. But how, after all these years, did the fort fall to familiar enemies? And can the adventurers survive a frontal attack by the savage forces it now contains?
Director's Commentary (June 3, 2018)
This session sees the PCs make their first approach to Fort Rannick. I tried to play up the increasingly grotesque scene. Of crucial importance to the whole sequence of events that follows in this and the next session is the randomly rolled weather: fog! The PCs were able to get quite close and even scout some of the interior of the fort's courtyard. They could have done some interesting things, but then when they tried to approach en masse, critical fumbles on Stealth checks were their undoing. Still, the thick fog was to their advantage as they made their stand at the entrance to the keep. Next session, we'll see whether this crazy idea (taking on the entire ogre army at once!) was successful or not.