TI3.42: West of Atharva

The characters for this session:

Fennec, L3 Dwarf combat wizard

Cauleigh, L3 Dwarf warrior (novice townsman)

Jotunn, L5 Dwarf warrior (apprentice hunter with tracking talent)

Crompton, L3 Dwarf rogue

Accompanied by their allies and hirelings, the Herbal Teas:

Sage the Gnome wizard

Trefoil the Human warrior

Heartsease the Elf warrior

Wolfbane (known as Wolfie) the Wulfan

 

Wild goat, faint mage

Their chosen path is a happy median between the ape foraging range and the shallow escarpment that marks Uruk territory. Jotunn sets the pace into the day’s rising heat. In the middle of the gang, Fennec adjusts his bug-out plan with Sage.

“When we throw Hidey-Hole each throws it over their own crew, and then we get close to each other so as not to lose sight of one another”

Sage nods respectfully. Ahead, Jotunn’s course appears to be edging them close to another belt of forest.

Another hour passes, the second since they reached the sinkhole. Jotunn kneels and appears to be studying something. Tiredly the Herbals straggle to a halt. The other Dwarves, much more alertly. Jotunn holds up a palm-sized round black object.

Arquebus ball? Turd? Yes, a turd as from a deer or goat. But a really big one.

At that point Sage seems to wheel around and look slightly up. Cauleigh hurries to him. The Gnome’s face is white.

“Sleepy Karma” Sage slurs and collapses in a faint.

[It seems time to check how Sage is doing with a night’s march followed by a tense encounter followed by more march. I roll a fail.]

Though most are distracted Crompton [LK SR] catches movement beyond Jotunn as a mighty ram romps up into sight and charges. Crompton levels the arquebus, yells “Bic Flick” and fires. [A fine DEX SR to hit overcomes the penalty for snap-shooting the long gun] The ram cartwheels head over heels and lies dead.

Wolfie is instantly ready with his bladed chain; it doubles as a flensing knife. No-one else wants to tackle the rank meat so he gorges happily.

Cauleigh carries Sage pick-a-back while their packs are distributed and the journey resumes.

 

Forest fringe, old horse

Is the ground rising slightly? It is. What is it we see off to half-right? Some form of depression or declination in the plain. Best keep away? The trees look cool and the Herbals are very tired. Anxious lest they are trespassing on Uruk range, they stumble up the last shallow ledges. They are perhaps a five-minute all-out run to shade.

Tossing manes off left: a horse herd departs. Cauleigh wonders if they are shod. No, but one is shod. Memories of T-bone (left back in Perrol) prompt thoughts of tempting it to join them.

Once they get to a modicum of shade – and an area the herd seems to frequent – Crompton begins whistling and holding out grass clumps. The others relax for a short rest.

“Tough trek for you?” Cauleigh asks Trefoil, sympathetically.

“Aye, a long march,” the handsome warrior agrees, rubbing his calves. “But ’twas more the nervous tension of the fight. I do need to sleep.”

An hour passes and Crompton rubs his BLTG bracer and his new friend, Lucky, is persuaded to eat the grass and have his nose rubbed. Lucky seems a manky beast but then, has not been curried in a long while.

Fennec and Crompton watch while the others doze. The heat of the day rises, and the trees sigh as a gentle breeze carries through them to the plateau. Jotunn stretches, wanders off down a game trail and comes back in a few minutes.

“I’ve found the stream where the horses water. Canteens, all.”

Crompton tethers Lucky to a tree and settles down for his turn of rest, Fennec heals Cauleigh more and he too settles, and Cauleigh helps Jotunn look at the maps. They are not particularly helpful.

“I could speak to a tree,” Heartsease offers.

“Can you do that?”

“No.”

“That was a joke between us when we first got together,” Trefoil explains.

 

Bounty hunters out of the Spire

The second spell of rest is interrupted by a faint chink of metal, far away towards the plateau. Lucky pricks its ears.

[I wait, no-one muffles Lucky’s muzzle]

Lucky neighs. Muttering a curse Cauleigh hurries to the plateau-facing edge of the forest and seeks a good climbable tree. He finds Wolfie there before him. [It’s not far away – they rested at the edge, this is slightly further round] The Wulfan mutters something unintelligible and looks up.

“Yes, I need to climb the tree,” guesses Cauleigh.

Wolfie leaps up. He’s gained condition since they first saw him in Ironbridge and while not as impressive as the Wulfans they fought near Hopespyre his leap scales the first dozen feet. He scrambles higher.

Meanwhile Jotunn is rallying the other five and weapons are readied. [L2 SR on IQ for Jotunn] They elect to ready non-firearms. The breeze is carrying their scent towards whatever it is that Wolfie is looking at.

“‘orsh, ‘an,” Wolfie calls quietly and scrambles back down. By this time the others are ready to depart. They follow Jotunn across the small stream and deeper into the forest.

Wolfie joins Jotunn at the van and repeats his warning. At rear, Cauleigh catches up to Heartsease who is trailing her demilune in reverse to avoid snagging it. The others are in file, following Jotunn, who spots spoor of a sun-loving rock hyrax and veers left on that path. Here, deeper in, the trees are fairly dense and massive.

“Ho! Ho! We know you’re there! Ho!” rough voices call but are ignored until it seems certain they will catch the party. Cauleigh calls:

“Let us hold here, and see what is to do”

And the party sets itself, save for Wolfie who lopes off out of sight. Fennec listens hard for the newcomers’ accents, in case it’s a Perrol party. They can all hear horses blowing in protest at being held off from water.

“Is this a Hidey-Hole time?” Sage asks urgently but being a combat mage, Fennec would rather blow shit up. Cauleigh signals the others that he will head to speak, donning his cape of plausibility and Crompton passes his Missile Dismissal talisman over and mutters how to operate it.

He chooses a point where the bulge of roots offers good cover and challenges. A rough, rasping voice responds:

“I thought there was someone there! Who are you?”

Cauleigh laughs. “I need to know who I’m outnumbered by before I advance to speak. Who are you?”

“We have the law on our side.”

“Whose law?”

“The law of the Prince…” “The Prince of the Spire” calls a second.

“Ah, the Spire,” Cauleigh acknowledges. “We have come a long step.”

“I call you under law, stranger, to declare yourself.”

Cauleigh rises cautiously and at a glance [L2 IQ SR, makes only L1] sees firearms and polearms, at least half a dozen riders, perhaps eight. He introduces himself only and tells them briefly that he has come by way of Perrol. He agrees:

“I hail from Esgaroth. We [tacitly aknowledging there are numbers with him] seek to travel back. We’re trying to stay shy of Uruk territory.”

Here skepticism as to a ‘warband’ of Uruks that includes ‘Trolls and Giants’ bids to escalate the challenge into a fight but Cauleigh does not make things worse, and the incident passes. It seems these are bounty killers hunting four thieves out of the Spire, serving a warrant at the behest of ‘one mighty scary dude’. Cauleigh tells them of the three corpses and spoils last seen on the back of a giant. Again, skepticism.

“I don’t s’pose ya’ll care to have ya pack examined”

They are startled by Cauleigh slinging his pack over to them, but despoil it of its contents and are disappointed by lack of riches. Reluctantly they shove its contents back in, any old how. Then [L2 LK ] the wind shifts, the horses become skittish, and Cauleigh retrieves his pack safely despite a cheap matchlock being readied.

Having warned them again Cauleigh moves back to his party. Heartsease whistles Wolfie in, and Jotunn sets a new course, wind at his left ear, through the woods. Heartsease Wolfie and Cauleigh act as rearguard, just in case the horsemen change their mind. Trefoil lingers to get a closer description of what transpired and check if there is any direction to the Spire, then hurries to head up the march with Jotunn.

 

Snakebite

The deeper woods do have some menace, as Fennec finds. A huge poison snake bites him [fails L8 LK, makes only L3 CON on L6 needed] and he feels his senses reeling! Crompton is in mid-party with him and once again makes a superb snapshot, and the arquebus separates the snake’s head from its body.

Jotunn cuts across the fang marks and sucks blood out. [A CON SR from Jotunn to represent his doctoring intuition, he hits L8. Based on partial CON success and Jotunn’s work, I deduct 25 from the snake’s damage, leaving 27 off Fennec’s CON.] Fennec has passed out by this time and after checking no-one has an anti-toxin, Sage and Crompton pump simple healing mana into the victim. [To be consistent with earlier events I have to rule Fennec is on zero mana and cannot heal himself]

Wolfie skins the snake out and chops it into huge steaks, offering them around. A few are wrapped and tucked away, and Wolfie gorges again.

 

Out of the woods

Fennec is mobile, but limps along in pain. From this point on Jotunn keeps an eye out for useful poulticing herbs. Wildlife in earshot of the arquebus have made themselves scarce and an uneventful stretch of walking follows.

At length, Jotunn feels the ground is dropping lower, and a decision might be called for regarding night camp. Imagining the river to “west” makes the plateau “north” so he elects to head “north-west”. By this time two packs are borne by Lucky, allowing the wizards to stumble along unencumbered. A deepening of the light above the canopy finds them determined to climb a tree and get a bearing. Cauleigh elects to and after some difficult scrambling [Good STR and L3 DEX] gets high enough to see the last of the sun’s glimmer, at the point they had been imagining as “south” and the last of its light reflected “north” on the highest cliffs of the plateau. He drops an arquebus ball true north, and with certain bearings [Jotunn makes a great LK SR] the party decides to follow that bearing.

“I’m pretty sure I have a compass somewhere,” Crompton laughs as Cauleigh regains the ground.

“No, we didn’t have any in the new kit,” Cauleigh retorts and so it is. No-one has one.

Fennec is in a lot of pain but toughs out the rest of the march. It is night by the time they clear the woods and look down at the moonlit Golden River, loud to their ears. Jotunn has kept an old log-race gully (downhill from a coffer dam) on his left, and they have been passing old felling areas and charcoal-burning mounds. A stove-in hut, perhaps left from a hyena-man raid, may have been deserted for a year.

Heartsease and the Dwarves agree they can see a sandbank in the river near to shore. A canteen party gathers water and they pull back a respectful distance and make cold camp. Fennec has Cauleigh drag his boot off, and settles to sleep as best he can.

“Does Wolfie always turn round and round three times before he settles?” Cauleigh jokes.

“That is also one of the things we joked about when we got together,” Sage responds light-heartedly, “but we don’t do that any more.”

 

Night watch and dawn

Watches: Cauleigh, then Jotunn, then Crompton.

Crompton has dawn watch. Fog gathers far beyond the river, which the last of the moonlight makes into a silver road to Ironbridge. The other two have been uneasily aware of a tangle, perhaps of wood or weed, back up the gully. A chittering sound from it prompts him to throw Cateyes up, spotting a small creature’s eyes looking back at him.

He hears a faint chanting, carried who knows how far on the still air. Fennec [teleporting into the scene so I declare him waking in pain] throws himself to an upright sitting posture:

“Hhhuu! What have I stepped in? Oh… poison leg.”

He too listens but makes nothing more of the faint faint sound than Crompton did.

Jotunn rouses himself and in the fresh dawn locates a weed, the bulbs of which are suitable for a poultice. That applied, Fennec splits his boot up the side and lashes it on. They warm hands at Crompton’s little fire and finish the gruel Crompton has boiled. Far, far to the left upriver they can see the outline of a fort or ruin.

 

At Epherin’s Fort, a looney capers and a barge arrives

A short walk, staying closer to the river, tells those with good vision that a few piles stand in the river beside it. Seeing the Herbals walking at ease, party order is reimposed. At one point a ground-cover vine reacts, trying to rope them in, but is easily evaded. [L3 DEX from both Jotunn and Heartsease, since they are avoiding being snared not dodging based on SPD. Could have been either really.] Jotunn decides to move away from the river into the forest and bears around the partially-ruined. The pace of the party is necessarily slow. Having moved perhaps 130 degrees around, they stand within perhaps 100 yards of the ruin. Ending perhaps 50 yards away from the keep, rough palings mark a camp. There’s a very small dot visible, far away, upriver.

Having watched for a time, and with Wolfie unwilling to trot out and scout, Cauleigh elects to approach the camp. He glimpses low-lying dark objects, perhaps logs, within it. He hails the camp. But it’s from the keep that a reply comes:

“Who goes? Who goes?”

“I am Cauleigh… heading for Ironbridge!”

A wild laugh and clatter of boots descending.

“Gnehhahah! Heehee!”

Springing out half-naked over a once-sturdy pediment a shaggy-haired man capers, waving a sickle.

“Have ye come to bury them again?”

“Bury them?”

“I’ve buried them as best I can?”

“Buried who?”

“I think it was… all of them!”

“Do they come back?”

“Well… only at night!”

“Poor fellow! Why not abandon this post and make for civilisation?”

“But…! If the keep falls… we all die!”

At this point the man, clearly deranged, battles imaginary foes, waving his sickle to and fro.

“Do barges stop here?”

“The barges! The barges! The barges! The barges!”

And with an athletic leap he vaults back over the pediment and into his keep.

From upriver comes a hail:

“Hoooo!”

The tiny dot has by now enlarged to be identifiable as a barge. The others join Cauleigh as he hails the barge. The bargees are not about to stop, but line their gunwale and a swift to-and-fro sees them agree to heave to at the piles beyond the keep.

The party circles the keep, to the occasional cry of “Who goes? the barge!” and present themselves to the barge, now roped to a pile. Suspicions overcome by the party being willing to rope their packs across first – not to mention an inoffensive Gnome and a pretty Elf – they board and for 30 gold take passage down to Ironbridge. Crompton waves Lucky goodbye. Lucky seems not to care.

As they approach the plateau Jotunn makes out a number of dry gulches that must lead back up to the declination he spotted near the forest. That’s potentially a good route, by night.

 

The plan for Ironbridge and after – let’s stay hirelings!

Crompton at first asks to be dropped off before town then – since that seems a poor choice – negotiates a hidden compartment in a large crate (marked ‘Edoras’) for the duration of the berth. That costs another chunk of 30 gold. His arquebus axe and bladed chain are to stay with the others.

Cauleigh asks about the ruined fort/haunted isle midway between Ironbridge and Jacob’s Spur. There is no one tale known to be true, but safety procedure is to hove to port and barge during daylight hours.

Sage asks for a briefing, and reminds Fennec about the spell training. The plan:

  • Crompton stays in the crate the whole time
  • The party withdraws cash and books more stabling
  • A rest-up and clean-up, and new boots for Fennec
  • The party returns to attack the dungeon once more

This naturally leads to a negotiation for the alliance to continue. The Herbals sign on for 45 gold per day plus another L3 spell from Fennec plus 10% treasure. “We nearly got killed fighting kobolds but we’ve come a long way since then,” as Sage lightly comments.

Oil flasks are put on the shopping list.

 

Accommodation in Ironbridge

Crompton is tamped in, chokes down his panic [CHR SR] and the barge passes under the bridge – to a friendly greeting from the guard – and moors at the barge docks.

The party exit to considerable excitement – after all the rumour was that the Dwarves were dead – and as they are virtually on the Trader Guild doorstep, make that their first stop. Trefoil remains with them, the other three Herbals head straight for the Rusty Rapier. It is not busy – two town gentlemen are in discussion over by the waiting bench – and the clerk deals calmly with them. His offer of long-term lease is declined. Cauleigh withdraws cash and stores Crompton’s heavy valuables.

As Cauleigh emerges a tiny attractive maid presents him with a card. Apparently at the Easy Hostess, laundry is extra.

“I want to see about this leg,” Fennec muses, “but I want to visit lady Ezra.”

En route to the stables, a young guard, hilarious with drink, hails them and laughs about the Matrona looking for them. Cauleigh explains that Crompton didn’t make it. He passes a silver over for a drink in Crompton’s memory. The story will be told.

Cauleigh Fennec and Jotunn say hello to the ponies and find them fat and out of condition. Fennec books a month’s stabling with extra to be exercised properly. So to the Rusty Rapier.

Sage and Heartsease are there waiting. The bar welcomes them broadly. Except the barkeep, but when Cauleigh sets his chest to the bar the man slides the same ale across as he had last time here.

“What do you know of healing places?”

“You should ask your friend over there”

Cauleigh heads back to Heartsease. She identifies the Green Shrine – a little out of town – that would be likely, if Fennec doesn’t mind trees.

Fennec sets up a time to catch up with Tadiko of the rogue’s guild and teach her the second run of the spell; then overnights at the Green Shrine, on a piece of tree that looks vaguely comfortable.

Over the remainder of the day the others see to their needs, retail their adventures, and rest. They pick up some useful Spire-related information: Halchos, the name/monogram on the stolen gear, is the arch-mage to the Prince. He would probably fund an expedition to regain the loot or take bounties.

 

Orctooth Manor, Sir Tytus Lytera

The following morning, a messenger bearing the Orctooth crest as a cloak-pin summons them to the manor, where Sir Titus Lytera wishes to see them.

“Now would be best.”

Cauleigh – donning the cape of plausibility – Jotunn, Sage and Trefoil are available immediately, and walk along with the messenger to the manor, at the upriver edge of town. He leads them no further than the gatehouse.

“Come in lads!” Lytera calls. Glancing in they see him seated at ease, some five goblets at table. “Make yourselves at ease. I understand you have had many adventures, and have circled the entire plateau.”

They file in as he continues:

“Drink with me. Tell me all about it,” he says with a piercing look, “I’d be very glad to hear more…”

Thare’s a clang outside as the gate shuts with finality.

“And so would someone else.”

Props

The area travelled in the session is all found in the Atharva Plateau map from Dyson Logos’ Dodecahedron 2014, slightly edited in that the forest west of Atharva is slightly larger.

Further west and south-west the Golden River flows to Dolem’s Spire. Beyond all of that lie the badlands (sourced from Dodecahedron 2015) where Fennec’s original goal, the tomb of Colairion, is located.

Ironbridge itself is an enlarged version of Summerford, from the Village Backdrop series by Raging Swan Press.

I haven’t worked in a cliffhanger for ages, it left me with a grin on my face. A quiet session but – except for Crompton – everyone got to spend AP earned after leaving Perrol.

I left it out of the detail but Cauleigh has now definitely linked the Easy Hostess cad/bouncer with Marshal Palweiss who is apparently the white sheep of the family.

The bounty hunter encounter wasn’t a given, but I did want to see what the lads would pick up from them. Not much as it turns out. It would be a very stiff challenge just persuading them to about-face from hostility and suspicion to informative. A chance to get the west-of-Atharva area mapped in went begging, but they do have a link into Dolem’s Spire which might come into play in later sessions.

See you next session!

 

 

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