DGA1.08: Lost-god-axe quest, part two

Characters for this half-session:

Seck, L2 human rogue

Thordan, dwarf monk

Layton, human fighter

Cat, human warlock

ably assisted by Jarre Killepeeth the NPC grugach forest guardian

We pick up the action with a confirmatory CON SV from Cat (which he fails). Last session he failed a survival/CON process, triggering the onset of regional dysentery. And the requirements of storytelling mean that Cat’s tummy begins to rebel as he follows the orc thug deeper into the kobold tunnels, loading his crossbow quietly!

Below, in the direction the thug has flung a couple of torches, a chaotic scene: 

Three orcs remain near the lip of a 15′ broad chasm in a cavern perhaps 50′ long and perhaps one-third that in width. Using hurled spears, they have engaged an uncertain number of kobolds opposite, who use the good cover of stalagmites, and pop out to throw darts back.

Behind them and near the tunnel entrance Urdax the orc diplomat is attempting to restore order while near him, Thordan Layton and Seck exchange gestures and nods: they plan to tip the orcs into the chasm! Layton has a torch in his shield hand, so all in the rear can see one another.

Three mains and a side-dish

Inits: kobold regulars/Thordan, Seck, Cat, Layton, Jarre, Urdax and his thug, orcs, kobold guards

Note: because the two scenes don’t intersect I’ve kept the above-ground action separate in each round

Round 1: Up the tunnel the thug spins around [CHA SV from Cat fails to reassure him] and Cat misses with the crossbow as the thug lunges to one side! Cat turns tail and hares back out, pursued by the orc!

An orc near Seck appears hurt by something from across the chasm. Urdax yells a warning as Thordan Seck and Layton rush at the orcs [STR+adv]. Layton’s heavy frame easily hurls his mark over and down – but Thordan’s strike is too low and Seck simply bounces off the burly orc he charges! Thordan, nearest the center, is perilously near all three remaining enemies in the cavern. Urdax, cursing ill fortune or his own poor phrasing that turned his orcs against the kobolds, swings his light hammer at Thordan, who evades it – only to run onto a massively-rammed spearhead. The monk crumples over it. Darts whip across into the action and the other orc is struck by one.

Round 2: Cat’s tummy is really hurting – but he has to keep dodging! He moves towards Jarre’s tree, calling “Orc! Attack!” He throws up Blade Ward, a flung spear sears along his flank, cutting his sturdy doublet. [Thordan’s player now takes over Jarre] The pursuing orc howls with pain as thorn-like missiles rain down around him.

In the cavern the orcs parry off more darts with their shields, though one dart does find its mark. [Thordan makes his first death roll] Seck targets a wounded orc but is parried off. He stays near Layton. The burly fighter swings his handaxe lustily and smashes the same orc above the shield – whereupon Seck stabs low: the orc topples into the pit. “Things have gone horribly wrong” Urdax comments, lunging over Seck to push Layton towards the pit. Layton twists his body and gets his back to the rough cavern wall [good STR check]. He’s dimly conscious that there are handholds there. The orc farthest from Layton attempts to pin Seck, jumping cruelly on Thordan [auto fail death roll] but the poor footing causes him to miss Seck. Darts whip across again, missing everyone.

Round 3: Cat hurls up Blade Ward again, dodging around the undergrowth and behind the tree. More arrow/thorn misery rains down but this time the orc manages to get clear. The tree trunk protects Cat from a thrown handaxe.

[Thordan misses his death roll. That’s 1 ok, 2 misses] Seck shoulder-charges Urdax to bump him off Layton – “but you’re a rogue!” Urdax cries – Urdax stumbles over Thordan and back to his nearest orc who rights him. Orc boots stomp all around Thordan. Layton shoves the orc teetering close to the pit – tipping him over – but as he lunges past Urdax and over Thordan the orc diplomat smashes him on the back of the helm: Layton collapses atop Thordan. “Can we talk about this?” Urdax asks Seck… “Alright then, talk” Seck replies, stepping back out of easy dart-range.

[Death saves for those in the pit not massively damaged… one makes a nat 20 and begins climbing]

Seck [good Perception check] hears the scrabbly noise of a burly orc heaving himself up a rough pit face… he can also hear the high-pitched chittering of kobolds encouraging one another… then three well-directed darts sink into Urdax, and he falls!

Round 4: This time Jarre does not miss and the orc collapses, pierced by arrow and thorns. Cat immediately whips his breeks down, braces his back against the trunk, and unloads urgently. He’s shaking and feverish. “I’ve been poisoned” he croaks. Jarre decides to make sure the orc isn’t getting back up, before heading down.

[Thordan misses his death roll. That’s 3 fails.] Seck steps up to the pit edge, waits with weapons held outstretched so the kobolds can see he’s not hostile [makes an excellent CHA check]: then as as orc head shows above the edge delivers a swift kick: the orc bites its tongue in half, and falls dying to the bottom. Admiring kobold clapping from opposite.

[Layton makes his first death roll] Seck drags Layton off Thordan, easing his breathing [makes a medicine check and Layton makes two more].

 

The living go on

Seck heaves Layton over to one side safely and by that time is joined by Kat, who brings a faint but nasty odor with him. Seck returns to tend to Thordan but shakes his head: the dwarf has joined his fathers.

Cat takes some time to clean himself up using the orcs’ spare water and Jarre more or less explains his illness, using signs. [Cat picks up his first level of exhaustion]

He returns to Seck, finding the rogue negotiating using common. After some five minutes or so an important kobold arrives.

This is Herftak, who is willing to bargain. The lengths of timber the kobolds have on their side are thrown across. Cat steps up!

 

It’s a bargain, and adieu

Keeping it short, Cat points out the orcs won’t stop coming, so they’ll take the axe off Herftak’s hands. Gewgaws are produced. The lesser kobolds are impressed, but Herftak responds:

“This… and everything the orcs carried on them… it’s a win-win… this way you won’t ever be able to say you looted Red Blades.”

“As long as the ax is genuine you have a deal,” Cat agrees. The ax is produced and [arcana check with disadv] Cat thinks it’s likely to be right. He grabs it and [WIS SV with disadv] only just avoids being attuned by the axe! He has a momentary vision of a great red hand….

“We’ll take it, wrap it up in cloth” – Cat

A short rest later Layton is able to help get Thordan’s body out. The kobolds have not been willing to go out into the light and pillage so the sack of breastplate and silver is still there, as is a poison kit on the thug. Jarre is handed the poison kit. Cat, who has been fed some salty tea-like drink by Jarre, is fit enough to travel.

Thordan is laid out respectfully but no-one feels like digging a deep hole with spear-blades, so that’s it. His water is handed to Cat, who will need to constantly hydrate.

It’s now time for Jarre to weigh up options for returning to Elin Barad. Going directly back risks running into orcs that have followed the trail… so she decides to veer north, safer though longer.

 

It’s not going to be that easy

Jarre misses the DC15 survival check needed, even with advantage, and the other three endure an increasingly tough trek. They do easily cope with perils like a deadfall, and certainly they avoid orcs and other dangers, but the heat and hard going takes its toll. Eventually (on 3 levels of exhaustion) Cat can’t go on and the others (on one or two levels) are not doing well. Jarre runs to Elin Barad and brings rescuers who carry the adventurers the last half dozen miles.

CON SV from Jarre gets an inadequate 4 and a barely adequate 11, so she’s slow as well. Cat on 5 levels, Layton on 4 levels and Seck on 3 levels of exhaustion.

 

 

Elin Barad welcomes you

“I am extremely impressed you survived. Unfortunate that not all did so… but that does not lessen the deed. We elves are vastly grateful, and once you recover, choose one thing that is non-metallic and we shall work on crafting it” – Prince Kaliel

Items like boots, gloves, cloaks, fabric or leather armor, or bows are all options. Even a rod may be possible. The lads are allowed to tell me retrospectively. They won’t be ready until after the next adventure. They also split four pounds of silver and Layton takes the nice breastplate.

It takes six days to get Cat walking fully fit again.

“I’m glad to see the back of all those trees” – Seck

“A lot of trees saw the back of me!” – Cat

“We went through the forest and the forest went through you” – Layton, to Cat

“It was nice of the kobolds… I was hoping we could get rid of the orcs and deal with them…” – Cat

“I thought we were supposed to slaughter the kobolds and take the axe” – Layton

“Nonononono… when I got back down, there was Seck alone. And don’t forget we always had the trade goods” – Cat

“Just funny how we made it all hard for ourselves, killing orcs instead of kobolds… maybe we should ask about a reward for the orc kills” – Layton

“Speaking of, I wonder what cloaks are on offer…” – Seck

 

What is afoot and what is told

The three survivors travel out and back to Leischport. But prior to that, they prepare by speaking to Carrac, one of the few elves who can put outside information together with lore.

Carrac has news of a growing illness among human settlements. Cat’s descriptions of tieflings and dragonkin lead Carrac into revelatory conversation:

“As you know, the fey intervene sometimes to help their kin in the mortal realm. They were instrumental in turning the scale, if you’ll pardon the pun, on the war on dragonkind. They convinced a powerful section of dragons that they were fools to ally with the chromatics…”

“Ahhh, the metallics…” – Cat

“You have it in one! And the metallics left the dimension completely, allowing the chromatics to be… cleaned up.”

“A shame, some metallics could be powerful friends” – Cat

“It is not for me to second-guess the doings of the fey. They have their reasons. Perhaps they felt there are sufficiently few gods in the realm to not need dragons. Not for me to guess, as I say.”

“Mmm…” – Cat, not convinced

“Many dragon descendants feel this to be a betrayal. There are those of metallic kind who seek to bring their kin back, and there are those of chromatic descent who feel that the “victory” won against their great-kind was a sham and wish to re-fight the war. And the inquisition from what I’ve seen makes no distinction.

“As for the Horned Skull goblins, though I think you have heard this before, as our intelligence gathering reveals, they are simply reacting to Red Blades orcs by drifting north seeking new forests. They are best left alone, but if they could be found a northerly forest, that’s best for all.”

“You say there are not enough gods in the realm… what of this ax? What god might have let it fall to earth?”

“That’s an easy one. Gruumsh, god of orcs, left the realm quite some time ago discontented at something… I’m no theologian”

“But what might have got him to drop an ax?”

“Legend says he let fall several such weapons, to inspire what he sees as healthy rivalry among his children… we’ll keep it safe, though if the Red Blades do grow too strong we may move it… there’s a nice secure mesa south-west… but we’ll see.”

Carrac provides Cat with a tag he can wear around his neck, similar to soldier honorable discharge tags, which should mean towns admit him without too many questions. And so, to the road back!

Layton is level two!

 

Aftermath

In Neilsfort and Mardleton the tale is the same: goblin fever, as this choleric distemper is known, has spread rapidly. Weaker victims develop a putrid fever and eventually die. The travelers make little of it, and stick to their elf-supplied water, and travel rations.

Leischport too is hard hit. Too few healers, and healing kits are in short supply. And thereby hangs the next quest.

Seck and Layton discover that the inquisition have processed the cultists from their last mission. 

Rewards from the mission: 52sp, plus the breastplate. Layton can decide retrospectively whether he sells it or dons it. It is fairly fancy and distinctively Birchbark Orc tribe.

Rewards from earlier: the opalescent remains have been sold and after the gemsmith takes his cut each of Seck, Luth, Layton and Ya get 40gp.

Brother Hatton Acklin comes through with extra rewards:

  • Seck: red and yellow short sword, with curious grip, effectively +1
  • Luth: his enchantment-quality longsword is enchanted, effectively +1
  • Layton: a fancy water-bottle
  • Ya: zip

That’s the end of the mission, a half-session’s worth. The next mission draws together these three survivors and Vir Onden, who badly needs to clear some milestones! And how they fare, we will learn in the next post.

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