Sunday, August 26, 2018

Rise of the Runelords Recap # 54 [RPG]

[24 Kuthona 4707 continued]

Skulls Crossing has stood for 10,000 years,
but nothing lasts forever . . .
Outside Skull’s Crossing, Artemis and Kang pause in their preparations for departure to examine the structure’s integrity once again.  Artemis is convinced that a total collapse of the dam would be catastrophic for the entire downstream region and suggests re-entering it to figure out how to open the floodgates.  Kang, however, says that it’s too dangerous and that their best course of action is to hurry back to Turtleback Ferry and begin a general evacuation of the town.

Meanwhile, in the Shimmerglens, Yap leads Katzumi northeast until they reach the southern banks of the Willow River.  Yap explains that they can save time on their journey by going directly across rather than backtracking to the Bitter Hollow ferry.  Katzumi is puzzled as to how they’ll get across until Yap says his friends will make it easy.  He calls out in a tongue that she doesn’t understand, and in seconds almost a dozen hand-sized river sprites appear.  They promise, to Katzumi’s wonderment, that they can arrange it so she can cross with no difficulty.  She’s nervous but agrees, and soon finds herself walking across the bottom of the Willow River, breathing water!  Thanks to Yap’s fey friends, miles have been shaved off of their journey.  Heading north with the Kreegwood to their left and the Skull River to their right, Yap and Katzumi soon find further assistance.  The plight of Myriana has touched many in the region, and word of Yap’s mission to find help has spread widely.  A river nixie reports that powerful adventurers are on their way back from Skull’s Crossing, having ousted the ogres and trolls that were making war there. The nixie suggests that they could be enlisted to help with the quest to recover Lamatar’s body from the Kreeg clanhold at Hook Mountain.

Vier has trouble trusting others . . .
With Yap and Katzumi heading north, and Artemis and Kang heading south, a meeting is inevitable.  But, unknown to both groups, a fifth person is present, hiding in the underbrush and listening to their conversation with interest.  Vier, a professional “trouble-shooter” from Riddleport, has been betrayed by his former adventuring party and has followed the trail of a rumoured band of warriors that he thinks could be quite useful in getting revenge.  But an uncontrollable sneeze gives away the pale, one-eyed spy’s position!  Vier explains his presence quickly, but wonders aloud if he’s made a mistake in enlisting the help of a group of warriors led by a pixie!  Yap, for his part, tries to persuade the group to head directly to Hook Mountain, but Kang and Artemis are adamant that Turtleback Ferry has to be warned before the dam breaks.  They promise Yap and Katzumi that, afterwards, they’ll join in on a quest to free the region from the ogre threat once and for all.

The adventurers cross the Skull River via ferry at nightfall, and head straight to the temple of Erastil.  The lower reaches of the town are still under a couple of feet of water, but the town seems to be recovering well from the flash-flood and attack of Black Magga.  Inside the temple, Artemis tells Father Shreed about the dam’s imminent collapse and the need to evacuate.  Shreed is persuaded that an evacuation is necessary, but Artemis isn’t able to convey the urgency of the situation as well as he would have liked.  Shreed says that he’ll begin preparations in the morning, but that it will take several days to get everyone (especially the sick and the wounded) moved safely to a location away from the likely path of such a devastating flood.

The adventurers find a warm place to rest on the temple’s upper level.  As a bedtime story, Kang tells Kat and Vier about the “psychopathic demon” trapped in the dam that may try to drag him to Hell if it gets free.

[25 Kuthona 4707]

In the morning, Artemis walks up the hill to the village schoolhouse, where some of the town’s displaced have found shelter, to speak with his cousin Fillias.  Fillias is on the road to recovery but suffering from survivor’s guilt over what happened to Fort Rannick.  Artemis kindly tells him that there was nothing more he could have done, and that surviving such a slaughter is a testament to the young man’s courage.  Fillias swears that he’ll do his duty as the last surviving Black Arrow and help lead the people of Turtleback Ferry to someplace safe.

Back at the temple, preparations for evacuation have started, but aren’t proceeding with great haste.  Vier dryly notes that if the townspeople are leaving, the adventurers should be on their way as well.  Katzumi asks Kang about the scar on his neck, and Kang explains how someone tried to kill him in his sleep during a recent boat ride.  The conversation is interrupted when Kang is verbally accosted by the local innkeeper for leaving a mess in his room on his first visit to Turtleback Ferry.  Kang shrugs it off, however.  All are forced to endure Yap’s attempt to “improve morale” by playing a flute (badly).  Katzumi suddenly realizes that she left her horse at the start of the Wicker Walk and asks if there’s time to retrieve it, but the others say it’s too far out of the way.

After Artemis arranges for four horses to carry the adventurers (though Vier insists on walking) and the bulk of the loot that had been stashed in Sir Roderick’s house, everyone meets at the ferry to cross the river and begin the journey north.  Artemis suggests following the river until it reaches the mountains, and then crossing the mountains west so that they’ll be on high ground if the dam should burst during their journey.

The ogre-kin of Kreegwood are a
horror best left alone . . .
Barely an hour into their march, the adventurers realize that they’re being stalked by creatures hiding in the trees of the Kreegwood.  Artemis scurries up a tree while the others dismount and take up battle positions.  With their presence discovered, horribly deformed humans with oversized arms and obese torsos emerge from the treeline.  Katzumi strikes first, stabbing one through the chest.  Fortunately, her instincts were correct as the others identify their assailants as brutish, degenerate creatures called ogre-kin.  Kang lobs bombs to devastate the attackers, but one explosive gets batted high into the air and lands near the adventurers’ horses!  A frightened Yap calls out for the plants to defend him, but the fighting is over seconds later as Vier uses a poisoned dagger to fell one of the attackers and Artemis, from his perch on a tree branch, plants an arrow through the throat of another.

The adventurers press on and soon reach the edge of the mountains where a broken trail leads to Fort Rannick.  They push past the lonely structure that is now more mausoleum than sentinel.  The going is quite slow through the mountains as jagged cliffs, snow-covered valleys, and boulder-strewn hills make travel an arduous process.  Two of the party’s horses are weakened by hypothermia, slowing the group even further, but, as they set up camp for the night, Artemis seems a miracle-worker when he digs out an almost-forgotten heatstone from the bottom of his pack.  The weary adventurers and their mounts are able to bed down comfortably for the night thanks to the warmth it provides.

[26 Kuthona 4707]

The heatstone continues to radiate warmth for the duration of the day’s march.  During a mid-morning break, a loud roar, like distant thunder, can be heard echoing through the peaks and valleys from somewhere to the east.  Artemis and Kang exchange looks, for they can guess the source of the noise: Skull’s Crossing has collapsed, and anyone still in Turtleback Ferry is probably dead.  Artemis keeps the group on track for the rest of the day, using natural landmarks and maps to make sure they don’t get lost.  The party’s ostensible guide, Yap, admits he doesn’t know *exactly* where Hook Mountain is and spends most of the journey snuggled warmly inside Katzumi’s backpack!  Knowing the heatstone won’t last much longer, Artemis and Vier keep their eyes open for any source of fuel during the march and are able to spot a couple of stunted trees.  It’s not much, but it’s enough to keep them alive through another freezing night.

Near sunset, the adventurers reach the base of a mountain that stretches nearly ten thousand feet into the sky.  “We’re here,” Artemis announces.  The adventurers set up camp.  Just after midnight, as Vier throws the last of the logs on the fire, howls spring up all around the campsite.  The adventurers’ presence has not gone unnoticed!

Ingenuity, preparation, and luck have gotten the adventurers this far.  But do they have the inner fortitude to survive a climb up Hook Mountain and then face whatever terrible dangers within the Kreeg clanhold?  And even if they do, will they ever uncover the true reason behind the destruction of Turtleback Ferry?
Director's Commentary (26/8/18)

Vier was the new PC for the player who had just lost the paladin to quicksand last session.  Alas, Vier (a dhampir rogue) would not survive long either.  The player had a long run of bad luck before finally landing a character midway through Chapter Four that would last (so far).

I was very curious to see where the PCs would be when the (randomly rolled) flood actually took place.  The poor people in Turtleback Ferry!  The loss of the village has become a somber note in the campaign, one that reminds the PCs of the price of failure.

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