The characters for this session:
Ya Nooskoi, leveler of Lightwatch, friend to Stiglehold, enemy of the red dragon, restorer of the Elt, grail-fetcher, enemy of the Red Blades. Has one milestone of Healers kit.
Lee Hunter, restorer of the Elt, grail-fetcher, enemy of the Red Blades. Has one milestone of Forgers kit.
Luth Starag, leveler of Lightwatch, friend to Stiglehold, enemy of the red dragon, restorer of the Elt, grail-fetcher, enemy of the Red Blades. Has one milestone of Carpenters tools.
Also, his mastiff pup Gear, enemy of bootlaces, devourer of rations.
Pais Ullmann, Orlin’s friend, leveler of Lightwatch, friend to Stiglehold, restorer of the Elt, grail-fetcher, enemy of the Red Blades. Has one milestone of Calligraphers supplies.
Looting the Red Blades circumspectly
The sounds of orc retreat fade. Ya keeps a good lookout though, as first Lee then Luth (once Gear is more or less to heel) move forward to investigate the fallen.
Lee focuses on only real valuables, because everyone is too tired to think about loading up with more weapons. From each orc he loots a coin pouch, and a potion bottle that [INT: arcana check] contains healing potion, and from three he loots a different potion bottle, well-stoppered.
The four have, during their retreat, exchanged brief thoughts about what might have been said to sway the goblin Boss. Now, with those in mind, Pais and Lee, they discuss how these orcs might prove a bargaining chip or evidence of good faith. As at least something to show, Lee removes three belts, each clearly branded and colored with Red Blades insignia.
Luth finds the goblin corpse clad in goblin-style clothing, but that a number of coins are scattered near the thing’s hands. He is suspicious of traps – though there’s nothing to be seen – and asks Lee to investigate carefully.
Lee brings up his new power, “sticky-fingers” [the specialist arcane trickster version of mage hand] and with it, nudges the coins away from the body. Then he inspects them. They are coated in a suspicious glaze.
The inquisition is both welcome and kind of expected
At this point Ya feels a tremor on the path and each takes precaution according to his nature: but as it turns out, the oncoming body is a troop of Inquisitors led by Hatton. Though surprised at the presence of the four adventurers so many leagues east of where they were supposed to be, he’s glad to see them.
The inquisition are here owing to a report that a cultist (Hatton traces a design, then later, the party hear the name Gruumsh) led a band of slavers. The party have no light to shed on this, and the inquisitors have little they can help the party with, other than to say Neilsfort is nearby. Pais gives them a brief update, and Lee is shown discarded poison bottles after the inquisitors beat the bushes. The three bottles he had not identified are the same. Being careful not to touch them Lee wraps the poisoned coins in cloth.
On the inquisitor troop rides, and Ya, who has been getting a suspicious vibe from them, is glad to see their backs. The four re-commence their course, Luth calling Gear to heel, and in about twenty minutes are within long shot of Neilsfort.
A hard man for hard times
Thunk! An arrow lands not far from Lee’s feet. At the same time:
“Ware strangers!” – Jandar, up on the Keep roof
Neilsfort is in a state between siege and neglect. The only really chipper inhabitant is shrine acolyte Aiden Mercer, educated, affable and persuasive. He seems to have his hands full tending the village sick in one quarantine building, and Lee helps out. In the simple Motte and Bailey keep warlike Teulon Sir Neils lives with his official wife lady Mirabelle and his Coaster mistress Arla, her three young children by their union, and her brother “Bright”.
Only a couple of the regular militia are fit, but in various states of fitness or bandage the adventurers meet Jandar Cuttle (the bowman), Richard Calaudra, Colton Ritter, Tam “call me Tando” Lynchfield the brother of the priest they met at Mardleton, Baxter Oakbar and Gul Feldrik. The latter, a heavily-bandaged dwarf, has had enough of the wild frontier.
Pais does the talking to Sir Neils, and to Bright, and hears a little of events (including the name Gruumsh). Though Neils understands the strategy behind the idea that the adventurers trek back to the goblins to re-open negotiations, he advises Pais to just head north and then to the river, following the wagon trail, where Karl’s Abbey is to be found. Pais takes a copy of a representational diagram of the region that Neils has. On it, Karl’s Abbey does look close…
Mutual advice and help overnight
Over at the orchard near the cemetery Ya hears Gul’s request to travel with them, if they are heading to the river. It’s agreeable to the others.
Aiden is able to add to the adventurers’ stock of knowledge concerning the Mooregate area. The name is given a high moorland area between Odill and Schmitford, claimed by the Duke in Odill. (It’s also the name of a city, beyond the moor, but the context makes it clear the adventurers are asking about the lands.)
The adventurers, with the sketch diagram and Aiden’s information under their belts, once again canvass their options. A wide range of options there are, but in the end they opt to set out for Karl’s Abbey in the dawn, with Gul stomping along with them.
That night, goblins probe the crude perimeter fence and no-one gets their long rest.
Karl’s Abbey is quarantined
The march river-ward follows a trail used by supply wagons and donkey-carts, so avoids rough ground, curving well clear of the mounds. Past that point, it’s a gentle descent navigating around shallow gullies and creeks. Gear keeps pace, travelling at least twice as far as the others as he investigates all sorts of interesting smells.
After eight hours of steady progress the five adventurers come in sight of Karl’s Abbey. A red flag stands at the village corners and waves atop the abbey. It is in quarantine.
In a fashion akin to Talgia, Karl’s Abbey has a mill and a fortified abbey on the river. A more uniform scatter of dwellings lies within the fields and a single impressive building, not very much smaller than the abbey, dominates the inner village.
Two armed secular servants walk out, and exchange information. His grace the abbot has placed the quarantine, so nothing can be done about that. The two first send provender and water, then a special defender, to help the newcomers.
A friendly mercenary obliges with a nod to the future
This is Ghil (pr. Jill), young-at-heart mercenary female elf, who wears an archer’s guard at her wrist, and enough armor to protect her minimal chest from a bowstring. Pais greets her amiably, she responds in friendly fashion.
I get Pais to roll a d20 for CHA and each character adds a d6 to represent reputation. There’s no dice mechanism for the renown each character has been building, this is a stab at incorporating it. It works OK in this attempt – for example Lee rolls a 1 so she can’t remember his name, while Ya rolls a 6 so she’s well aware of his reputation.
As to shipping off downriver, there’s nothing simpler. As the night deepens, the Leischport fishermen will be sailing back from Talgia, bound for the early morning wet-markets. She’ll hail a boat and it will carry them faster than they can walk. There has been some trouble on the river at Stiglehold, but they can find out about that there.
Pais thanks Ghil and she responds that she expects they will all find themselves fellow adventurers in the new guild being set up.
By the time they are well seated in the fishing boat they have decided to stop at Stiglehold to warn them, too, of the situation. Not Gul! He’ll be going on direct to Leischport.
Stiglehold by deep night is suspicious of strangers
Stiglehold is a small walled town. It is deep night, and few lights burn. Moreover they land on the opposite bank to the one Orlin ushered them to, for the midsummer convocation to St. Lathander. They don’t know where to go or what to do. Luth chases after Gear, and by the time he returns a suspicious watchman is talking wheezily to Pais. Pais wearily presents his official document, which then requires the light of the watch-house to read. Ya flips his dog-tags, hears the town rules recited, and heads off to find an inn.
Very impressed at the seal to the document, the watch respectfully advise that the three ought to stay with Sir Stigle over at the keep, but there are a couple of places. The town seems orderly – at least in this southern dock – and two-man patrols carefully check places where goblins or gnomes might be hiding.
Although they begin entering the well-constructed keep – and gather forgot-to-check-my-weapons Ya to them at this juncture – they are intercepted by amiable fop and Sheriff’s deputy Foman Amblesheath who brings them back out to the constabulary and reeve’s audit-house. Here, handsome and reliable elected Sheriff Darathra Shendrel works through a sleepless night.
Sheriff Darathra points to a new mission
She listens keenly to their report, taking notes. She suspects that an orcish spy is behind things. Perhaps a half-orc: swarthy, brute-jawed, low-browed and pointy-eared. (She pays no mind to blue-eyed, tan-skinned and normal-featured Ya.) Foman plies them with wine.
As to Ghil’s report of trouble here (and Darathra seems intrigued that Ghilianna the mercenary is in the region, possibly with her opposite, the unpleasant human Dolok in tow) it is true. The best intelligence assembled speaks like this:
- Elite goblin scouts were north of the river
- They intercepted Sir Galmont and his followers on their way to find and recruit legendary paladin Jahia
- The followers are thought all slain
- The goblins appear to have set a heavy rope across the river and by its means, moved Galmont back south of it
- They appear to have moved off south, some 18 hours ago
Darathra asks them if Ya is willing to use his expertise to follow the trail?
She has already, by this time, canvassed their willingness to return to the goblin Boss. They are, provided there is some point in doing so. This mission impels them on: pursue the scouts and save the knight!
For her part, Darathra will send their message on to Leischport. This Pais and Foman quickly see to while the others make themselves comfortable and pre-dawn bird-calls swell, then joins them in deep slumber and
Founding members of the guild
They munch elevenses as they re-pack with fresh rations and watered wine. In all likelihood their path will take them into the Mounds.
Darathra mutters about another mission for Ya as soon as he can spare time. Hearing this, Luth remarks:
“They really need an adventurer guild around here.”
“That reminds me! Bless you Luth!” – Darathra
Darathra hands them each a porcelain disk to tie around their neck. On each is incised the small runes for GA. “At the moment we think ten ranks will be set up. Please tell Reid if you think he’s wrong.” She avoids explaining what rank porcelain means.
Gear’s first useful contribution on a mission
Remaining on the south bank, the four, Gear happily gamboling about, walk to where the rope-crossing was made. A profusion of tracks and work-marks prevent Ya and Lee from finding anything useful. They decide to cast out further south.
This strategy is successful. Tracks and drag-marks appear south-east. And within a short distance Gear, barking happily, plows off the line of march into a thicket. Here, in a crude camp, Galmont’s armor has been stripped and left lying, and the components of a stretcher-pontoon undone.
They conclude that up to this point the goblins were carrying a helpless, perhaps unconscious, knight. From here, he must be walking. They take some extra minutes to not merely hide the armor but mask tracks around the thicket. Apart from Gear’s paw-prints, since he rushes back and forth across Lee’s brushing, trying to help catch whatever it is his pack-brother is hunting.
Ya hopes to get a sense of how fast the goblins are moving. [Hybrid check using INT: investigation but with WIS proficiency bonus] Comparing what he can find of Galmont’s boot-pace to his own stride, he thinks they are probably keeping him at the jog. He picks up the pace. Luth is soon lagging, the wineskins and heavier armor really telling.
On! To a familiar pass…
Into the Mounds! The unforgiving ground is much less favorable for tracking. Ya begins to despair. Lee encourages him [giving him his own inspiration]. It pays off! Ya finds a scuff-mark where the side of the knight’s boot has dislodged sandstone.
Lee muses, “I wonder if we’re being spied on…”
A flock of crows, or perhaps ravens, flies up nearby and wheeling, races south-east. Lee gets chills as it recalls to mind the attack he underwent not too many weeks ago.
And it is not long before the hills ahead look familiar. Two low bluffs seem to stand shoulder to shoulder, guarding a trail between them. A scatter of bones – animal bones – lies visible. Ravens settle in the distance.
“It’s the Swale-gate!”
Timeline and remarks about goblin scouts:
Scouts have been over the Alshon long since, seeking good lands. Unluckily for the first two, they bumped into Pais, Seck, Ya and Luth, who killed one of them, took the other prisoner and then abandoned it to die among giant spiders and the remains of Sir Galmont’s followers.*
A second scout group found those remains and enough evidence for goblin spies to begin seeking Sir Galmont, holding him responsible for the death of the first two scouts.
At the time that Seck, Vir, Cat, Phoenix and Layton meet goblins south-east of Darkvald, the scouts locate good caverns in the Darkvald and are referred south by Seck, who can’t recall his involvement.* This is the time that Yazol is defeated.
In the time that Seck Vir and Phoenix recover from fever, the events leading to DGA1.11 take place. The goblin scout party north of the river intercepts Sir Galmont at the Oakwood. His page, Bok, survives. Seck & Co. are dispatched north from Tallywood to fetch Jahia.
The events just told, of DGA2.07 and .08, take place. Pais and Co. travel south as emissaries, then reappear in Stiglehold. Reid is urging rescue of Sir Galmont, so Darathra urges them on that mission.
*I just wanted to make it clear that if bad things happen, the players’ own actions are to blame.