The Scales of War

Goblins and Ghosts?

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Having won the entry hall to the mausoleum the party regrouped between the three doors seemingly leading further in to the crypts.

“It looks like each family got their own wing down here.” observed Chenia pointing to the lintels above the three doors, each bearing a family name inscribed into the stone. “Which one should we investigate first?”

“Well, this is Rivenroar Castle, so perhaps the Rivenroar section will be the best place to start.” replied Gladys, pointing at the centre door.

“Maybe not,” piped up Okidoki with a glance through the open western door, “there is a torch lying on the floor out there that looks like it has just been pulled off the wall and thrown on the ground. I’d guess after being waved about as a signal. And I think I can hear voices coming from down there, though I can’t make out what they are saying.”

Heeding the gnome’s warning the rest of the group took up positions to either side of the door waiting to see if they were about to be attacked. All except for Vetch, who stood across the room with an arrow aimed through the open door.

He did not have to wait long either, as moments later a small goblin scout poked head and shoulders around the corner to peer into the room. It only had long enough for it’s beady little eyes to widen in shock at the sight of the waiting elf before Vetch’s arrow took it in the throat, knocking it backwards and tumbling it to the ground.

“Quickly now!” cried Chenia, “That will have alerted them!”

With a rush, Gladys and Thomas led the way around the corner and down the corridor a short distance before finding themselves at the entrance to an open room. And sure enough there in the middle of the room were a pack of hobgoblins milling about and looking rather less ready than they might have wanted to for the arrival of a group of adventurers. In addition to the main mob, there was a slightly larger looking hobgoblin at the back of the pack and a single hobgoblin on the far side of the room just in the process of opening a door as the party charged in. Seeing the arrival of the adventurers the hobgoblin turned from the door and rushed back across the room to join it’s brethren in the attack.

Fortunately however, many of the hobgoblins proved to be rather less than a threat to the party. Several of them fell rather easily although their Phalanx Soldier tactic could make them difficult to hit. What was making the combat rather more troublesome than it might otherwise have been was the steady stream of crossbow bolts that were flying out of the darkness through the door on the other side of the room. The party were forced to adjust their tactics to keep them out of line of site of the door as much as possible which did occastionally make the fight a little awkward. Eventually, all of the hobgoblins, even their leader, were felled and the party was all taking cover from the darkness and wondering what to do when Vetch solved the problem by dashing across the room and slamming the door shut.

After a couple of tense minutes of waiting to see if whatever was shooting through the door would come bursting in, the group decided they were safe to take a brief rest.

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Ready to move on, the group decided that the other door out of this room was more in need of investigation than the door with the darkness and the bolts. Opening the door, the group were greeted with the sight of yet another unlit corridor, this one leading only a short distance from the door before turning to the north. Moving cautiously up to the corner, the group discovered that the corridor continued for but a short distance before opening out in to a dimly lit room. Leading the way up to the entrance, Okidoki was able to report back to the group that the room was a curious shaped thing. almost triangular in shape with an exit at each apex. Running along the far wall from the entrance used by the party and suspended from two faintly glowing poles, was a large tapestry. The tapestry depicted numerous knights, all bearing the arms of the Von Jallach family, performing various deeds of valor.

In front of the tapestry stood a low weapon rack of a size to hold a single sword and lying on the floor about half way to the right hand door, was the corpse of a goblin, from the look of it, having been there for some time.

Leaving the rest of the group lurking at the doorway, Okidoki skulked forward to check on the corpse.

“This one’s been dead a while … it’s not one of ours.” he reported back to the group.

“No kidding? We could tell that from here.” came the reply.

However, before the conversation could go any further two spectral figures swept out of the tapestry, seeming to flow out of the images of of two knights depicted there. One floated across the room and attacked the gnome while the other swept in to assault the main group. Once again, battle was joined.

Fortunately for the group this battle was one where they actually outnumbered their opponents, and although they took a few hits it did not take long before the first of the spectral knights was defeated, fading away into wisps of ectoplasm with a final outraged scream.

Once the entire group was able to focus on the remaining ghost warrior, but curiously after only a brief time the warrior suddenly put up his sword and spoke, and in a faint, whispery voice spoke.

“Hold! I yield!”

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“You … uhh … yield?” All of the group were taken aback by this turn of events but Okidoki was the one to voice that surprise.

The ghostly warrior’s sword faded from view as he replied. “Yes, I yield. We attacked thinking you were those filthy goblins come back to steal again. But I see now that we were mistaken. You are clearly not goblins and don’t look like tomb robbers either. I am Sir Mirtanius von Urstadt, Knight of the Vale. And I apologise for assaulting you like that.”

The group exchanged surprised glances for a moment and then Chenia spoke up.

“Umm, forgive us for being a little puzzled sir Knight, but we have never seen had anyone apologise for attacking us before.” Chenia looked a little uncomfortable to be holding a conversation with a ghost but pressed on, “How did you come to be … in … this state, in this place?”

“I came to be here in the normal way. I died, old age sadly rather than in battle, but you can’t have everything, and was buried here by my sons. The crypt seems to choose two knights from the family to guard it from thieves and such. Used to replace them as members of the family were buried. Of course, nobody from the family has been buried here in long long time. I don’t know if that means they have moved on or all died out. So there won’t be anyone to replace Sir Cellan,” Mirtanius gestured towards the spot where his ghostly companion had fallen, “so I suppose it is just me now. Not that we did any good this last time. It’d been too long you see, we were too slow waking up. Only managed to catch one of the thieving vermin,” this time he gestured to the dead goblin on the floor.

“They stole the sword! The filthy, thieving scum! Been in the family for over two hundred years and it ends up stolen by some goblins. Please, can you recover it. The goblins were yabbering something about giving it to some vile undead creature to seal a deal or something. I cannot bear the thought of Banid’s Blade in the filthy rotting hands of some gods forsaken undead filth.”

Seeing a puzzled look growing on Okidoki’s face and rightly deducing that he was about to question the knight’s status as undead himself, Gladys cut in quickly to forestall the inevitable gaffe. “I am sure we can do this for you Sir Mirtanius. We are searching this crypt for captives taken from Brindol as well as some artifacts stolen by the goblins. We will retrieve your sword for you as well.”

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Down We Go

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Silently, the group passed through the ruined gates of Rivenroar Castle. Without a word Okidoki and Vetch moved out ahead of the rest, stealthily scouting out the way in the hope of catching any goblin guards unaware. Although Vetch could still pick out goblin and hobgoblin tracks passing to and fro through the courtyard of the Castle, no sign could be seen of any of the creatures.

Quietly, Vetch murmured to Okidoki “This place has a desolate air to it. No one has lived here who has cared for the place in a very long time.”

Okidoki glanced around the various outbuildings, taking in the dilapidated condition of the main building with its caved in roof and the jumble of collapsed out-buildings around it and replied “Well, umm, yes. I suppose that is obvious.”

“I don’t mean that no one has looked after the place. I mean that no one has cared for it. No one has thought of it as home. It makes the place feel … empty … in a way that the mere absence of people does not.”

Okidoki stared at Vetch for a moment, trying to make sense of what the elf had just said. Then, with a shrug of his shoulders he turned back to the path ahead. Then both the monk and the ranger started slightly as Chenia spoke up from behind.

“You know, when they first told us about this… an old Castle, claimed by no one, only a day’s walk from Brindol, I thought – fantastic, maybe we could turn it in to some sort of base for our party. A home away from home sort of … but this place is a ruin. It would cost an absolute fortune to repair all of this …” she trailed off as both of the leading characters turned to look at her and made urgent shushing gestures … “oh, yeah .. sorry.” she whispered.

It was soon fairly clear that the majority of the tracks led to a specific building. A small stone structure set towards the back of the castle, it seemed to show less wear than most of the other buildings the group had seen, largely because it was entirely made of stone. Small and squat it nonetheless had an ornately carved lintel over the doors with symbols of most of the locally worshipped gods on display. Small stone pillars on each side of the doors bore the crest of the Rivenroar family. A large looking iron key appeared to be rusted in to the lock of the right hand door and that door stood a couple of inches open.

Approaching the doors, Vetch knocked an arrow as Okidoki reached out and quietly swung the door open. Peering in through the door the two saw a simple flight of stone stairs heading down into the earth below, lit only by the daylight coming in past them. Seeing nothing of any danger, Okidoki motioned to the rest of the group to move up as quietly as they could and then winced when that approach didn’t seem as quiet as he might like. Then he and Vetch slipped in through the doors and started their way down the stairs.

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Side by side the gnome and the elf made their quiet way down the finely made, ten foot wide staircase. Vetch couldn’t help but notice that the stairs were made of a fine white stone that reflected the light slightly, and that the stairs boasted oak railings affixed to the walls on both sides. Clearly this area was supposed to display the wealth and good taste of the owners to any who might come visiting.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs however, the pair were greeted with an unpleasant surprise. Standing in the middle of the room with weapons to hand were two Hobgoblins, glaring fiercely at the adventurers. And behind the hobgoblins at the far end of the room, a pair of Goblins, with crossbows at the ready.

For an instant, Okidoki stared at the creatures in puzzlement.

“But we were so quiet” he said plaintively. Then he glanced down at the large pool of daylight that had spilled down the stairs when the door above had been opened, effectively lighting up the very spot on which they stood.

The gnome had time only to say “Oh Bugg..” before, with a roar the Hobgoblins charged.

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The first hobgoblin swung wildly at Okidoki with it’s flail, connecting with a glancing blow for only a very little damage. The second one enjoyed rather more success, landing a critical blow on Vetch.

Vetch in reply stabbed out with his shortsword in a Nimble Strike, and although he failed to hit he decided that standing right in front of the monsters getting smacked in the face with a flail wasn’t really his best contribution to the team and shifted back to stand behind Okidoki.

Thomas took advantage of the space cleared by Vetch’s move to rush up to the Hobgoblin and strike it soundly. Okidoki swung at the hobgoblin that had hit him and missed but then used his gnomish Fade Away power to become invisible.

Both of the goblins then fired their crossbows at the intruders but in the confusion of the fight and the sudden disappearance of the gnome they both missed.

There followed a few rounds of confused melee, with the Hobgoblins pinning the group at the entrance to the room. Thomas took some solid hits from the Hobgoblin and from one of the Goblins, although the second goblin disappeared around a corner in the room briefly before returning to fire into the melee.

Eventually, Okidoki unleashed his Spinning Leopard Strike and much like every other time he has used it, it changed the nature of the battle. It killed one of the Hobgoblins outright and wounded the other. With his Phalanx Soldier ability no longer functioning, the last Hobgoblin was suddenly feeling rather at risk. He attempted to shift out of combat to run away but Gladys’s Blurred Step allowed her to keep pace with his shift and stop his escape. He doesn’t last much longer before Vetch’s arrows and Gladys’s blade finish him.

Meanwhile Thomas had charged across the room to the goblin, hoping to finish him quickly and stop his ranged attacks on the group. Although he did manage to stop it attacking the rest of the group, the goblin proved capable in melee as well and given that Thomas had already taken a fair bit of damage, after a brief exchange of blows the goblin left the Shifter laying bleeding on the ground.

However, Chenia was quickly there to save the day, felling the goblin with her Bardic magic and then healing Thomas with her Majestic Word. Meantime the last goblin was trying to escape from the Monk and Battlemind only to fall prey to Gladys’s Blurred Step just as his companion had. Shortly thereafter he joined his companion in death on the cold stone floor.

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Adventure Ho!
Setting Foot upon the road to adventure

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“Splendid!” said Troyas happily, a wide grin breaking out on his face. “Although many of my fellows on the Council harbor grave doubts about the wisdom of employing adventurers in this wise, we will prove them wrong. The City Watch is not up to the task of rescuing our townsfolk, so you will do it instead and they will be proved wrong.”

With that he gestured in the direction of the mysterious elf who had been standing silently at the back of the room.

“This is Vetch. He has been doing some work for me in recent weeks and has proven very capable. He will be accompanying you on this mission. His skills may prove very valuable to you.”

The newly introduced Vetch inclined his head in the direction of the party, but remained silent.

Okidoki looked up from where he had been admiring his fine new broach. “There is a problem there though Master Troyas. We do not know where the goblins have gone.”

The half-elven councilor’s grin faded to a serious look at this.

“That is true enough sir Gnome. We do not know where they have gone. Yet. However we have had one small piece of luck that might help us there. Out of all the chaos last night, our watchmen managed to take a prisoner. Just the one, but I dare to hope that one will be enough.”

He walked over to the window and gestured outside. Chenia, standing closest to the window, moved over to it and looked out in the direction the Councilman pointed. Outside in a small square behind the Council Building were the stocks. Usually unused except for the occasional overly excited drunkard, Chenia could see a figure locked within the stocks and flanked by two figures in the livery of the City Watch. Gathered in front of the stocks Chenia could see a group of smaller individuals that at distance might be either halflings or children.

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Shortly later, the four heroes stood in front of the stocks, gazing upon the bedraggled and vegetable spattered form of Morrik the Hobgoblin.

Despite being battered and weary, the Hobgoblin was nevertheless defiant and prepared for all manner of threats and violence from the group. However, no such nastiness was forthcoming. Instead, Chenia merely talked to him. Playing upon his evident pride to be part of the new Army of the Red Hand, Chenia used her superior knowledge of the history of the Vale and the War against the Army of the Red Hand to trick Morrik in to revealing much of what he knew.

Eager to refute Chenia’s claims, Morrick revealed that the new Army of the Red Hand was a band of Hobgoblins and Goblins under the leadership of a Hobgoblin called Sinruth. He also told the group that the Red Hand had based itself in the catacombs under the ruin of Rivenroar Castle. He told them that Sinruth hoped to forge his currently modest band in to a force similar to the original Red Hand and thus set himself up as a power within the Vale. Morrik also told them that Sinruth had made some sort of deal with some undead creatures that laired in the catacombs and that this was why the attacking force had abducted some of the townsfolk. As offerings to the undead.

DM’s note:

I think I somewhat mishandled the skill challenge at this point. It was after all our first crack at it. Reading through the description of the challenge I presented the Players with the options listed. Not surprisingly they chose the skill with the lowest target number to concentrate on, and as a result got all the information they needed from Morrik the Hobgoblin just using the History check. Note for self in future – let the Players think of skills they might try to apply and DON’T tell them in advance what the various target numbers are :)

Having gleaned the rough location of the castle from Morrik, the group set out in pursuit of the goblins. Vetch very quickly proved to be as useful to the group as Troyas had suggested he might be, finding and following the tracks of the goblins and their prisoners with seeming ease and guiding the group around perils in the wilderness that they otherwise might have stumbled directly into. With his assistance they arrived at Castle Rivenroar by the most direct available route

It had been an eight hour walk and the group discussed possibly resting for the night before proceeding in to the Castle but decided in the end that there was sufficient day left to make a start. Some party members were also concerned that the captives not be forced to endure another night in the hands of the goblins.

With that, the group cautiously made their way across the threshold of Castle Rivenroar.

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Meetings
Shall we call him Mr Johnson?

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Shortly afterwards, the four adventurers, having finished their breakfasts, followed Alys through the streets of Brindol, heading for the meeting with the Councilmember.

“So,” said Chenia, always keen to know about the people she was about to meet, “does anyone know anything about this Eoffram Troyas then?”

Okidoki piped up “Can’t help I’m afraid. I’ve not long since arrived in town, so I really don’t know anyone,”

Gladys looks briefly at the others and ahead to Alys, who is a little ahead of the group and says “He is a member of the City Council of Brindol. There are nine on the council, hereditary nobles and guild leaders mostly, plus the Captain of the Guard. Troyas is the newest Councilmember. A bit controversial too. He’s less inclined than most to just do things the way they’ve always been done if he thinks there might be a better way to do it. I think he recently suggested using adventurers rather than town guard to hunt down some bandits. Caused a bit of a stir with the older Councilmembers.”

Okidoki spoke up again, “So, he might be going to offer us work. Hunting down these bandits then?”

Chenia shook her head… “It’s possible I suppose, but I’d think that last night’s outrage is probably more likely to be the topic of conversation. Those weren’t mere bandits that attacked the town. If anything, he’s going to want to talk to us about that.”

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Shortly after, the group arrived at the council building and Alys led the group in to a meeting room. Leaving them there briefly she departed and advised the Councilmember that the group had arrived and in short order Eoffram Troyas entered the room, followed by Alys and an elf, dressed in leather armour.

Eoffram Troyas was a half elf of average height and build and with neatly styled blond hair and a small and dapper goatee beard. He was dressed in plain if finely tailored clothing and carried a small wooden box under his left arm.

Troyas stared hard at each of the group for a moment and then almost as if by magic, a wide and friendly smile blossomed across his face.

“Greetings! Greetings one and all my fine, heroic friends. Brindol owes you a great debt of gratitude this day and I thought it only fitting that I, as a member of the council should meet with you to express that gratitude.”

As he spoke each of the adventurers in turn were treated to a firm handshake and friendly, if piercing look in the eye, as if Troyas were sizing them each up.

Gladys, clearly slightly taken aback to be suddenly being thanked by one of the leaders of her town, stammered a reply … “Ah, thank you Councilman… but you do not owe us a debt. We did no more than any concerned citizen might do… no more than the City Guard might do at any time.”

Troyas laughed … “Oh you are too modest Gladys, too modest indeed”

Gladys started at the sudden realisation that the Councilmember knew her name.

“While it is true that on a night such as last night we might reasonably expect everyone and anyone to contribute to the defence of the city, the truth is that you four were uniquely successful. Certainly the City Guard did their work, but they were outnumbered and overpowered in many instances. And as a result we lost far too many of them.”

For a moment he hung his head, clearly a little overwhelmed at the losses the city has suffered.

“Plus of course, you drove off that Ogre. I truly hate to think of the loss we might have suffered had you not done that. The beast had already killed two groups of Guards and a number of the folk of Brindol, and I do not know how we would have stopped it if you had not intervened. For that, if nothing else, you are deserving of our thanks.”

With that, Troyas put the small box down on the table and opened it. Out of the box he took four small silver broaches finely worked and each with a small copy of the symbol of Brindol worked in to it. He moved among the group and pinned the broach onto cloak or tunic as available and said… “This is just a small token of our appreciation. And perhaps a hint of things to come. Brindol is still in need and I may have a task for you that could increase your fame and provide you with an opportunity to gain more of Brindol’s appreciation.”

Troyas sighed and rubs his forehead for a moment as if considering where to begin.

“It would seem that our attackers were not simply here to cause mayhem last night. It would appear that they also had some specific goals in mind. While many of them were killing and setting fires, one group broke in to the Hall of Valor and made of with some of the relics stored there..”

Thomas interjected with a puzzled frown… “Hall of Valor? What is that?”

Troyas looked across at the shifter and replied … “The Hall of Valor is where we keep alive memories of those who have done great things for Brindol and the Vale. Relics of heroes of the past. Most specifically in this case, relics relating to the battle with the army of the Red Hand. The goblins seem to have specifically targeted the relics from that time. That seems to be all that they took from the Hall. Well that and Sertanian – which brings me to our other point. The goblins seem to have … taken … some people. We’re not completely sure how many at this stage. Some goblins were seen herding a group of prisoners away, and we have at least ten people that we can’t account for at the moment. The people who saw the goblins couldn’t be sure of numbers of prisoners, but probably at least half a dozen. Sertanian, the castellan of the Hall of Valor is one of those missing.”

He paused to look around at each of the group… “Here then is the deal. I want you to follow the goblins to their lair, rescue the captives and recover the relics. If you can manage to break the back of the goblin group so much the better, but the aim here is to rescue and to recover. When you bring back the captives and the relics I will pay you each one hundred gold pieces and the gratitude of Brindol will be yours. So, what say you?”

Chenia glanced at each of the others for a moment, seeing the determination and acceptance in their eyes.

“Yes Councilman,” she said quietly, “we will.”

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After the Ogre's over

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With the hobgoblins fallen and the Ogre driven off, the townsfolk started to appear out of hiding. In between shouting thanks and congratulations at the four heroes who had so bravely battled the monsters threatening the town, the townsfolk set about once again fighting the fires that had sprung up.

And so begins a long and wearying night for all. Most of the night is spent fighting fires or nervously standing watch on the walls of the town. Twice during the night the call reached the heroes that more goblins had been seen and both times the group reacted to rush to help. Both times however the goblins were not to be found, either having left, or having been an imagined sighting.

In the end, in the small hours of the morning, all four adventurers just found themselves a place on the floor in the tavern where it all started, and dropped into an exhausted slumber.

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The next morning everyone awakes to the smell of fresh baking and hot kaf (the local caffeinated drink of choice, served hot and bitter and very invigorating). Maird, the owner of the tavern has organised loaves of fresh hot bread and kaf for everyone, including the four adventurers who slept where they fell earlier in the morning.

There is some brief discussion about payment, but it soon becomes clear that Maird is not going to accept money from those who defended his tavern from goblinfolk, nor those who helped douse the flames that threatened to destroy it. Not today at any rate.

Having dragged a table outside the bar to sit in the sun on the street, it is a peculiarly surreal scene in which the adventurers find themselves eating their breakfast. All the buildings that can be seen from their location show some degree of fire damage and all around is the strong smell of burnt timber. At the intersection at the far end of the tavern is a pile of dead goblins and hobgoblins, mounded up roughly and waiting to be hauled away by the town guard and disposed of. Meanwhile, on the other side of the street and laid out with considerably more care are the townsfolk who were killed in the attack, waiting to be found and collected by family who may only just now realising that they may not be coming home. The townsfolk are covered by tarpaulins to keep them out of the heat of the sun, pleasant now but already working it’s way up to the high thirties that have marked the last few weeks.

All four of the adventurers are either applying themselves to their breakfast with a will, or quietly watching the latest group of worried townsfolk drifting past, hesitantly lifting the tarpaulin to check the bodies below, desperately hoping not to see a missing and much loved face below. As a result, none of them saw the figure approaching until it was upon them.

Looking around, the adventurers find they have been approached by a young woman. She is a short slender half elven woman with blond hair, dressed in ordinary looking clothing but with a tabard bearing the crest of Brindol. She clears her throat nervously as she stands looking at the four. For a moment everyone stares at her, trying to figure out why she seems familiar, and it is Chenia who speaks up first.

“Weren’t you a barmaid last night?”

The rest of the group stir with sudden recognition.

“That’s right,” says Gladys… “the one with the lethal serving tray. Well done that girl!”

The young woman looks slightly flustered for a moment before speaking. “Umm, yes, that was me. My name is Alys, and I am here as a duly appointed messenger of the Council of Brindol…”

“But hang on…” interjects Okidoki, around a mouthful of fresh bread “if you were a barmaid last night, how are you a duly appointed messenger etc today?”

Alys stared down at the ground beneath her feet for a moment before replying. “Oh, well… after you killed all those monsters…”

“We, girl, you killed one too” said Gladys

“Ah, yes ..well … after we killed all those monsters, I ran off to check on my gran. She lives on her own you see. Has no one with her. Doesn’t really need no one either, most of the time … but I worried, with all these things running about the town. She was fine, but I ran into some town guard who were rounding up people to help them out. They’d lost quite a few of theirs to the goblins, and couldn’t spare guards for the running of messages. So I got called to duty. Me and a few others. Being running about town all night since.”

Alys glanced about the street with it’s carnage and corpses suddenly clearly realised that she hadn’t delivered her official message.

Anyway, I have a message for you, from Councilmember Eoffram Troyas. He would like to meet you. To discuss the events of yesterday, and an opportunity for you all.”

The group all exchange glances. An official summons.

Seeing that nobody else was about to speak up, but that equally nobody seemed particularly set against the idea, Chenia said “Yes Alys, we will come.”

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A New Peril

For a moment the four stood looking at one another, taking in what they had just been told. Then the gnome broke the silence. “So, what are we to do now? I doubt the tavern will be serving ale again any time soon.”

Chenia speaks, not so much in reply as just being set in to motion by Okidoki’s comment. “And are we a … group … now? Somehow I expected the creation of an adventuring group to be more … impressive. What should we call ourselves?”

Thomas stirs at this and glances at Chenia. “Ourselves? What ever do you mean woman? We banded together to face a single threat … that does not make us …”

Thomas breaks off mid-sentence as the distant shouting that has been going on for some time suddenly rises up into screams as three townsfolk burst out of an alley at the far end of the tavern from the group. Rushing out in to the street they instantly split into three directions, one of them turning down the street and running towards the group. And then, following the fleeing townsfolk out in to the street came the strangest sight the group had yet seen. A full grown Ogre, yoked to a wagon, towing it out into the street, and standing in the back of the wagon, two hobgoblins, one of them wielding a longbow.

Seeing the group of adventurers at the far end of the Tavern the Ogre roars and hurls a barrel at them. It fails to hit anyone but the lit fuse on the top of the barrel ignites the roofing pitch that was splashed all about when the barrel shatters on impact. Chenia and Thomas suddenly found themselves in a pool of fire.

An instant later the hobgoblin shoots Okidoki – the monk yelps at the sudden pain but fades from view immediately after. At the same time the second hobgoblin hands the ogre another barrel, a lit fuse sparking merrily on the top. Without a word the group scatters in all directions, seeking cover from the deadly ranged attacks.

Seeing his targets rapidly disappearing the ogre selects Gladys as his target of choice and launches it’s new barrel at her. Once again the inaccuracy of the thrown barrel is clear as the ogre misses the elf by a fair margin, creating another large burning pool of pitch in the middle of the street.

Gladys takes the opportunity to fire her crossbow at the hobgoblin with the bow, but an involuntary flinch from the sudden heat of the burning pitch threw her aim off, and the bolt sailed away down the street.

Meanwhile Okidoki was taking advantage of his temporary invisibility to dash down the street towards the fight but then detour to take cover in the open but unoccupied Tailor’s shop. When he arrived in there his invisibility wore off but he was now safely out of sight of the monsters.

Thomas rushes around the back of the Stag and Thistle and finding the back door locked, applies his strength and smashes it in. With a grim smile he realises this is why the tavern patrons couldn’t escape this way during the first fight. He then rushes across the interior of the tavern until he is near enough a window to see where the ogre and it’s passengers are.

Entering the fray, Chenia popped out from behind her cover at the corner of the Tavern and took a shot at the hobgoblin with the bow, but unfortunately she was no more successful than Gladys. Seeing Chenia the ogre dragged the wagon a few ponderous steps forward down the road towards her and then threw a barrel at her. This barrel continued the ogre’s record for inaccuracy however and smashed into the side of the tavern, setting it on fire once again.

Leaning around the ogre, the hobgoblin with the bow shot the fleeing townsman squarely in the back, dropping his corpse in the middle of the street, only a few short steps from the corner and safety he was running toward. Enraged at seeing one of her fellow Brindolians murdered right in front of her, Gladys shot at the hobgoblin archer once again, but her rage led her astray and the crossbow bolt followed the first one down the street.

As Gladys was glaring over her crossbow at the surprisingly difficult to hit hobgoblin, Okidoki was taking advantage of being out of line of sight of the foe to clamber up the side of the building and on to the roof, aiming to get a better view of proceedings. Thomas finished sneaking up to the window to get a better look at the ogre.

Chenia, deciding that being the target of two heavily hurled barrels of pitch was enough, decided at this point to follow Thomas’s route around the back of the tavern and in through the back door, seeking a less exposed line of attack.

The ogre, finding himself with no living targets, hurls his latest barrel on to the roof of the Tailor’s shop, setting it merrily alight. The hobgoblin archer, similarly bereft of targets, holds over his action, awaiting a target of opportunity. The other hobgoblin meanwhile lights the fuse on another barrel and passes it to the ogre.

Gladys pops out from her cover to shoot at the hobgoblin once again. However the hobgoblin was waiting for her and fires first, hitting. Thrown off her aim by the sudden injury, her third unsuccessful bolt is followed down the road by some rather profane curses.

All of a sudden, his eyes once again glowing an eerie icy blue, Okidoki summons the power of the Spinning Leopard Maneuver and springs down from the roof, landing next to the wagon and lashing out with his spear to damage both the ogre and the hobgoblin that has been supplying him with barrels to hurl.

DM’s note:

It occurred to me while writing this up that Okidoki just used his Daily Power for the second time in the same day. Bit of a no-no that. Still, none of us spotted it at the time and frankly it may have actually saved the party… so all good.

An instant later Thomas leaps out of the window of the tavern on the other side of the road and unleashes his Wildblood Frenzy, damaging both the ogre and the hobgoblin archer. Chenia then follows this up by moving up to the window of the tavern and shooting the ogre.

Roaring with rage at the sudden flurry of hits on it, the ogre whips his enormous club around and smashes it into Okidoki, catching the gnome by surprise and hurting him very badly. The hobgoblin archer, focussed on his target, holds over his attack, waiting for Gladys to once again show herself. And he doesn’t have long to wait as Gladys soon pops out from behind the Tailor’s shop and moves towards the combat. Seeing his target the hobgoblin takes his shot but misses. The other hobgoblin ignores the melee going on around him and passes the ogre yet another barrel.

Seeing this from the window Chenia yells to Okidoki “Take out the reloader! Quickly!”

Reacting to this suggestion from the party bard, Okidoki unleashes a mighty attack on the hobgoblin, just as he is picking up the next barrel to hand on to the ogre. The hobgoblin is hurt and pushed backwards a few unbalanced steps, tripping on the backboard of the wagon and falling to the street, the barrel at his side. Okidoki then shifts carefully out of the reach of the ogre.

Thomas attacks the hobgoblin archer once again, hitting it and causing it to cry out in pain as Chenia moves to a different window where she can see Okidoki and invokes her Majestic Word to give him some much needed healing.

The ogre lumbers down the road to meet Gladys’s approach and hits her with his club. Gladys sneers in the ogre’s face and taunts him. The archer hobgoblin, suddenly dragged away from Thomas by the ogre moving the wagon, shoots at Thomas but misses. The other hobgoblin, finding himself isolated from his companions, shifts away from the gnome who had hurt him so badly and prepares to flee down the alley behind the Tavern. However it is not to be, as Thomas charges down on him and kills him with a single mighty blow.

Chenia leans out the window to take another shot at the ogre but misses as it lunges forward with an enraged snarl and smashes it’s huge club in to Gladys knocking her over and leaving her unconscious and dying in the street.

DM’s note:

Yes that’s right – the first critical of the session and it is from the creature that does 2d10+5 on a normal hit. I must confess I was a little surprised at how willing the PCs were to get up and melee in this fight. It seemed logical to me that they would have shot down the supporting hobgoblins and then just kited the ogre around the streets until they filled him full of arrows. However, the party consists of two defenders, one melee striker and a leader – they really are a melee heavy group. That said, they are probably not going to run in to a situation like this all that often.

Once again the archer shoots at Thomas, this time hitting. The hobgoblins bark of victory is short lived however, as Okidoki performs the Swan’s Wings attack and leaps from well behind the wagon, seeming for a moment almost to fly through the air to crash a powerful attack into the Hobgoblin. With a sickening crack the monster’s neck is broken by the gnome’s powerful kick and it falls into the back of the wagon, dead.

Thomas grabs up the fallen Hobgoblin’s bow and shoots the ogre in the back, distracting it from it’s plan of smashing the fallen elf into a red paste on the road. Turning to see where this new torment rises from it sees that the two hobgoblins are now both dead. Chenia takes advantage of the ogre’s distraction to rush over to Gladys and help her. Realising that it is now outnumbered and feeling distinctly bloodied the ogre smashes it’s club down onto the front of the wagon, breaking the yoke free and turning once again, runs off down the street. Thomas and Chenia hit the ogre with a few more arrows as it departs but it escapes around a corner and off towards the exit from town. With Gladys down the group is feeling rather too battered to press the issue and let the beast go.

DM’s note:

Well, by and large that session went rather well. Despite putting themselves rather more in harms way than expected, the PCs all acquitted themselves quite well. They were perhaps a little lucky to only have one of their number knocked down by the extremely heavy hitting ogre, but it all worked out well in the end.

One thing I did discover that we were doing wrong is the use of Reach weapons (primarily the use of spears on the part of the party, but also the ogre and his club) A read of the PHB reveals that Reach Weapons can attack two squares out but they don’t threaten there. In other words even with a Reach Weapon you still only get Opportunity Attacks in adjacent squares, not out at the two square mark. The way we were playing it nobody would ever NOT have a spear because then you always get an opportunity attack as your foe comes in to melee range. No harm done to the session as it didn’t come in to play a lot, but now that we know we can do it correctly from now on.

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After the Fight
A between session vignette

With a sudden rush, the fear and grief of the last few minutes are thrust aside by everyone in the tavern. Even with corpses strewn all about everyone reacts instantly to the imperative of fire. When there is a fire everyone must act to counter the common threat or the entire town might be lost.

And so the four new heroes join the other survivors of the fight in rushing out in to the street. There they find several buildings already on fire although in none of them yet have the flames strongly taken hold. Quickly everyone organises themselves into teams of beaters and bucket chains to fight the fires. As all this is going on sounds of shouting carries to the fire fighters from other parts of the town, making it clear that here is not the only part of Brindol to be imperilled by flame.

Most of the distant shouting seems to have died down before the flames nearest the group are quenched, suggesting that perhaps the other fires are almost under control now.

As the group turns from the vanquished flames, dirty, grimy and smoky they see the almost ubiquitous small grubby urchin, for once not the dirtiest person around, talking earnestly to solid and capable looking man in the cloak and mail of the Town Watch and pointing in the direction of the group. Moments later the man is striding towards the group flanked by two similarly attired but somewhat younger looking men.

As they approach Gladys whispers urgently to the rest of the group.
“That is Senior Sargent Balik of the Watch. He is a fair if rather hard man. And a right bastard if you get on the wrong side of him. Odd though – he usually leads a team of five.”

The brief conversation that follows seems to bear out Gladys’s assessment. All three watchmen show signs of being in a recent fight, bearing minor wounds in addition to their covering of soot.

“You lot! I hear you decided to take matters into your own hands just now. Is that true?”

Chenia’s voice takes on a ringing tone as she replies …

“True indeed Sir Watchman. To think that we should wake to such a day as this. A day for spears to be shaken and shields to be splintered. A sword day! A red day! But our bold company did not shirk from the challenge. Indeed no! We took up our arms and we told the hobgoblin attackers No! Your villainy shall not go unanswered. With firm resolve we …”

Chenia trailed off as Balik waved his hands in front of her.

“Stop, stop, stop. I don’t need an epic recital here. Did you, or did you not, fight the hobgoblins who attacked the tavern?”

Chenia stared at Balik for a moment and then visibly deflated.

“umm, yes…”

“Well, fine then. Thank you. Thank you all in fact. It is good to know that there are some in the town who will take up the fight for themselves and not just expect us in the Watch to do all the bleeding and dying. We’ve done more than enough of that today. And with the Freeriders away to help out at Overlook with their Orc problem, there really is only us in the Watch to look out for folks. Anyway, we must be off – we’ve lost more than I like to guess of our number in this filthy raid.”

And with that the three Watchmen make off down the road at a trot, soon disappearing from view.

The four heroes suddenly found themselves standing together slightly apart from the rest of the citizenry in the street.

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It all started in the pub
Don't they always?

The four strangers sat around a small round table. The busy state of the tavern had forced them into each others company, who might otherwise have chosen to sit alone. Before long however Okidoki and Gladys found a hint of common ground in the psionic disciplines that they each used and with this serving to break the ice quickly moved on to chatting about less consequential things. Chenia however was having less of an easy time of it. Despite being naturally gregarious and something of a ‘people person’ she was finding it quite an effort trying to strike up a conversation with the taciturn Shifter that shared her side of the table. She tried pointing out the rather interesting old flag that was hanging behind the simple bar.

It is said that that flag is the very one that the Red Hand carried in to battle when they laid siege to Brindol one hundred years ago” she said, faltering slightly when Thomas stared at her like she had suddenly grown an extra head. “It’s also said that the Diamond League themselves captured it from the General of the Red Hand. Although how it ended up in this dingy place is something of a mystery.

Suddenly the gentle hubbub of the evening in the Antler and Thistle was shattered by the crack of the front door flying off its hinges to land between two of the nearest tables, raising startled cries from the nearby patrons. Four hobgoblins rush in to the bar, swords swinging as they come and swiftly cutting down the two bar patrons unlucky enough to be near the door and thus within easy reach.

For Sinruth!” they cry, their heavily accented common difficult to understand, “For the Hand!

Instantly the tavern descended into chaos. The various patrons of the establishment leaped to their feet and either rushed towards the back of the bar or towards the intruders to aid their fellows.

Of the group of strangers, Okidoki was the first to react. Tumbling catlike off the back of his chair he rushed towards the monstrous humanoids. Unfortunately having to dodge around a couple of panicked bar patrons and their table prevented him from fully reaching his target, so he crouched behind the table, waiting for a chance to spring out on the hobgoblins.

Mere moments behind Okidoki, Thomas leaped from his seat almost relieved at the interruption to the conversation. Swiftly he followed the gnome towards the hobgoblins. Rather than rush in to join the gnome in the tangle of patrons and table however, Thomas stopped, thinking back to his lessons with his Eladrin trainer.

“Remember that nature is your ally. If you evoke her correctly she will aid you in your travails”

Thomas concentrated for a moment and felt the unfamiliar rush of his Warden power pulsing through him. His eyes flashed and just for a moment he, and only he could see the spectral shape of a snarling panthers head above several of his foes, marking them as his targets.

Eagerly rushing in to battle Gladys unleashed her psionic power and swung at a hobgoblin, unfortunately failing to connect.

The Hobgoblins themselves however were applying themselves to their work with a will and two more bar patrons were swiftly cut down where they stood as more of the villainous creatures poured in through the door.

Meanwhile at the back of the bar Chania was exhorting the patrons to escape through the rear door of the bar. Many of the patrons immediately took her advice and there was a considerable rush towards the rear. A couple of patrons, deep in their cups ignored her in favour of yahooing and yelling advice at the fight and the small table of poker players in the furthest corner may possibly not even have heard her, so embroiled were they in a high stakes game with several coppers riding on the fall of the cards.

DM’s note:

There followed several rounds of concerted missing on the part of the party which I will skip for brevity’s sake. The Hobgoblin’s Phalanx Soldier ability pushed their AC up to 19 which some dismal dice rolling made seem well out of reach. In fact given that more monsters were supposed to pour into the inn every turn I was beginning to fear a disaster. But then …

With a strange, almost strangled cry, Okidoki focussed all his power internally and released it through his limbs in a ferocious burst. This was the most advanced technique his master had trained him in and he had struggle long before becoming comfortable with it’s use. The force of the power welling up within him made his eye glow an icy blue and his limbs moved at a blur. Dashing suddenly back and forth along the line of goblinoid foes, Okidoki’s spear stabbed out repeatedly and in an astonishingly short time three hobgoblins and the goblin who had thrown the torch that started the merry blaze now burning on a table, lay dead.

Almost as if Okidoki’s sudden success spurred them on the rest of the group suddenly found themselves enjoying greater success, and before long all of the remaining Hobgoblins lay dead on the tavern floor with one goblin escaping out the front door in to the street.

DM’s note:

The sudden death of a bunch of the Hobgoblins in the middle of the line, thus breaking up their Phalanx Soldier ability certainly didn’t hurt either.

The sudden silence as the clash of steel died away was only broken by the sound of one patron throwing mug after mug of ale to douse the burning table.

A small smattering of applause broke out from the bar patrons for the sudden and unexpected heroes who had sprung up in their midst to save their very lives.

However before the newborn heroes have time to even really begin to appreciate their victory a small boy, grubby as only urchins seem able to be appears in the doorway and yells out a word of warning that cuts through everybody present.

FIRE!

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