Quest for the White Ring
Dor, Chamberlain to Prince Almuric, provided a new quest that extended the existing quest. It was to contact Lil’endrash, supposedly a powerful sorcerer of the White Ring, and ask him to lend his power to Almuric. So that the four of them would be sure to, ahem, find their way safely, a Captain Roem would accompany them. Roem was young – about their age – and tough-looking. Captain Vale, a senior man, observed with sour expression. Bardic, confident in his own abilities but without any tact or insight, did most of the negotiating.
Neither military man seemed in favor of using these turncoat foreigners to further the Prince’s ambitions. But Roem proceeded in a businesslike fashion to facilitate re-equipping and seeing to their obligations and charges.
At that point the players should have trotted out a list of amazing stuff to bring, but they failed. We had a discussion about silk vs hemp rope, and all decided on either a hatchet or a hand-pick and pitons; no-one thought much about what other gear they would need. I also mandated that furs were provided – after all if Roem turned up in furs they would hardly fail to notice. Finally they all decided on not wearing metal armor: Vorel and Bardic scale back to Reinforced Hide, stowing the chain shirt in a “backpack” which they have never owned. Must be some other campaign.
The slave-girls that Vorel Bardic and Morath had acquired – Kara Hyacinth and Rin – were secured thanks to Marc Al’Panth’s good offices, and as part-payment for the ‘quest’ were to be given safe conduct to the northern border. From there Marc Al’Panth was to take them to the Khorgas-Red confluence and leave them in what sounded suspiciously like a nunnery. Bardic was happy, Morath glad he could complete his obligation to Rin, and Vorel shrugged indifferently. He was not saying anything to Dor in case he put his foot in it!
Pollos and Decius, who had been getting itchy feet in land-locked Koth, offered to join their ‘climb team’ as they wanted to head west after Ophir. Both were competent climbers, and both were very familiar with ropes. Pollos was a straightforward cutlass-wielding fighting man, Decius more of a finesse fighter-cum-backstabber. “A man after my own heart,” Morath commented.
And the original quest was to continue. They had to admire Xaphur’s organizational ability – he understood the smooth movement of goods and people over long distances. And Almuric’s persistence. From Almuric’s southern holdings the army moved smoothly north to a jump-off point facing the Mounts of Grey Morning. There had been only a few desertions since Prince Houmekri took over – Sergius was one of them – and all four captains provided climbing teams. With the Prince providing a fifth and Almuric sponsoring a sixth there were around 40 men ready to begin the ascent. Including Balatro.
The Steeps: lower reaches
Perhaps because of Balatro’s presence, around five of the climbers were missing by the time base camp had been established. There, packs were re-checked, provisions and gear stowed to an absolute minimum, and the teams readied themselves with rope, hammers, pitons and bundles of dry wood for campfires.
I had to mentally add the dry firewood for the junior members of each team. No-one seemed curious about how long the climb was likely to last.
The boys noticed that Balatro seemed unattached to any particular captain, though Houmekri was watching him closely. They noted that Houmekri seemed unworried by the cold, and that his three bodyguards were underdressed, and their three bearers were bound to die of exposure. Bardic theorized that Iapet was shielding the Prince from the cold.
Escorus’ lads numbered five, all well-trained climbers. Quintus’s team had kept its full complement of seven. Thavros’ team was led by his lieutenant Orsonio but had shrunk to three; Pareso’s team was led by Lake Alkos and numbered five.
The early stages of the climb were easy. It was Spring, a new year in the Hyborian calendar beckoned, the main problem was working over or around the many falls and washouts. Celo and Morath kept their bows well-wrapped, Vorel’s was secure in its case. All climbers with a plan to stay armored were wearing reinforced hide at most, and all were well-wrapped in furs, cloaks, or both. Houmekri’s bodyguards had scrounged up extra hides and makeshift cloaks. With all as ready as they could be, the first climb proper began, and team Almuric decided the order, since Bardic was the best climber. They placed the Prince directly after them so that they could keep an eye on him, then team Escorus then team Quintus, then team Pareso and finally team Thavros. Bardic scaled the first steep, the others following.
Odd! They did not realize that night could fall so swiftly. Fetch out a light, someone commented uneasily. Much rummaging as they remembered not bothering to pack any. Decius and Pollos, as junior members, were carrying fire-ready brands. As they fumbled them out, team Almuric was attacked!
Shadow mastiff: 9/10 concealment in darkness, ½ concealment in torchlight.
Several of the party were slashed by fangs and some were tripped to be promptly chewed some more. Some panicky shouting between Morath and Vorel ensued, as to whose job it had been to pack the silver dagger – which was definitely not among the items selected as weapons!
Pollos managed to light one of the brands and once lit, the fanged guardians of shadow were much easier to hit. The Prince’s team clambered up to join the fight, promptly losing two of its bearers. Decius was tripped and slain before the last beast was cut in two by Bardic’s sword.
No-one had thought to request so much as a salve or berry to aid healing so there was naught for it but to bind tooth-marks, rest, and climb on with first light. No-one removed Decius’ pack, so from then only Pollos had firewood, and the last of the Prince’s bearers.
During the next stages of climbing the Prince’s group became separated from theirs. They did make contact with the other four teams, hearing of a terrible battle with huge, heavily armored guardians. Balatro joined their team, though he proved an excellent climber and had no need of a rope at these stages.
Odd! The Mounts of Grey Morning did not strike anyone as volcanic, but there they were, clambering up onto a ledge that was distinctly so. And what are these red, scaled, hound-like beasts that clambered out of the fumaroles to challenge them? Last seen in Palena!
Hell hound: d4+1 flame damage, DC13 for half damage, Achaeronian fire effect (continues burning).
Several of the party were set on fire or at least smoldering, before the hounds were slain. Pollos and Roem were the worst hurt. Balatro stayed well clear and was unscathed as were Morath and Celo. Undaunted, they staged up and resumed climbing.
Pausing on a relatively small ledge, they were accosted by a 7’ tall, plate-armored, great-axe-wielding form that materialized in their midst.
Chaos Knight construct: 10DR, Sunder attack
Captain Roem’s great-sword was smashed almost immediately but Bardic engaged the Knight then smashed through its carapace. It fell into its component pieces. Roem tested the axe’s weight and decided that it was worth trying to carry. Balatro had remained out of danger and mockingly bade them all follow up and up.