DGA11.01: Red Hand of Doom part I – Return to Drellin’s Ferry

The level 10 heroes for this session

In order of range attack

Vir, ranger/Hunter variant, wielding longbow;
Cat, warlock/Archfey (Titania), wielding double-range Eldritch Blast;
Seck, rogue/Scout variant, wielding Maelsauga;
Ulric, paladin/Oath of the Crown, wielding area buffs;
Phoenix, barbarian/Path of the Zealot/whatever the heck Mocair is, wielding Mocair

The heroes begin with 13,045xp and a 45% story bonus, and add 2240 and 10% story bonus. They gain level 11, Tier Three! (With 2,691xp of the way to level 12.)

Danger: Murderers at Work

While Phoenix happily demolishes more of the bridge deck, and Ulric (who says he’s uncomfortable being a guest to fey) keeps watch, the other three relax in the dryads’ protected nook.

All manner of things come under their ken:

  • Long Rest allows Vir and Ulric to Summon Steed and send an Animal Messenger: the former permits an easy but slow retreat to Drellin’s Ferry: the latter permits a 25-word message sent to alert the town.
  • Returning on Shanks’ Pony is bound to be tiring, but offers the shortest elapsed time back to Drellin’s Ferry.
  • Striking upstream to Vraath Keep is possible but risky. After all, Cat has Luth’s cautionary tale of what happens when you strike at the snake’s head unsubtly.
  • The Blackfen, and this supposed sunken city Rhest, is a long way beyond Vraath Keep and enemy prep. If they stay here and cause trouble, it might be possible to outwit the enemy* and retreat forward there.
  • Striking downstream to speak to the Lizardfolk – with a hydra head as evidence that their oppressor is dead – might be worthwhile.

Eventually, they near three heads on which to vote: but before they can bring that to the other two, Phoenix is nearly assassinated by two bugbear murderers!

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Rushing out to the merry sound of battle, they find that Phoenix, with his barbaric senses, has raged and struck one murderer before a blow can land: and Ulric’s Blindsight helm has allowed him to close on the other. As Murderer One dives back into the river for safety, Murderer Two follows suit. The tiger eyes on Mocair’s blade fade, and night sounds slowly resume.

Always more than two choices

The three heads on which to vote boil down to:

  1. Stay, cause trouble;
  2. Forced march retreat afoot, be prepared to suffer exhaustion;
  3. March downstream, make overtures to the Lizardfolk.

*During the fey-protected nook discussion, Cat’s senses completely overlap Dis’ senses. He can see, all around the nook, a green miasma that signifies Ozyrandion’s power. There is no way to move unseen once they are outside of the nook.

As always there are extra pieces of information to add before an informed vote can be made. Vir, who scouted downstream and spoke to a raccoon, guesstimates around two hours to get to the Lizardfolk marsh. Cat’s explanation of Ozyrandion’s miasma is well worth the effort. Ulric and Phoenix can both assure the others that the bugbears on the opposite bank are still a threat.

The vote: march downstream. Vir explains to their hosts, spinning the move as “preparing as best they can to do battle against Ozyrandion” and receives a 24-hour Bless from them.

Aerial bombardment

Party order: Seck, Vir, Ulric, Cat, Phoenix (holding a rough-cut pike with a hydra head atop)

Once he passes the first territory marker, Seck adopts a non-threatening posture, returning Red Whisper to its scabbard. He signals the others to do likewise.

A second, more definite territory warning mark sees Seck wave a halt. First light is past, and in shades of greys and blacks, Seck’s keen eyes pick out water disturbances that show a series of causeways out to the lumpen village they seek. Deep grey clouds show where the moon is setting.

Then rising up from the village comes a high-flying Manticore! It is versed in attacks against powerful ground forces, and stays high up, loosing volleys of iron spikes!

Manticore

Vir replies – and Seck wishes the thing would drop to within 90′ – and scores telling strikes. Bloodied, the creature swoops back to the village, ordering the warriors there to attack! Cat baits it mockingly. It swoops back, enraged – and low enough for his Eldritch Blasts to reach it! With a few more shots Vir drops it, and Seck and Cat vengefully slam shots into its sinking carcass.

Ax-maiden and the Lizardfolk Agenda

Naturally, the battle-ready Lizardfolk do not attack! Instead, the diplomatic hollers – and general pointing to the hydra head – summon forth a female diplomat and two hulking personal guards. This is Ax-maiden, in the common tongue, and she is ready to listen and bring the party’s proposal back to her village council.

As Cat speaks of war against the Wyrmlord Koth, her body language becomes negative, but when he speaks of defending Drellin’s Ferry, she responds positively. He emphasizes that side of things. Ax-maiden swims away to report.

Lizardfolk

Seck stands respectfully, watching the hefty guards, while the others return to the little bonfire Cat had going, and the rude meal of ration and marsh-bird Phoenix is cooking.

Short Rest (except Seck) – half available HD can be rolled

Ax-maiden returns with positive news. No, the Lizardfolk will not be “joining” or “allying.” Yes, the party can rest here. Her people will prepare a bower some distance off in the marsh. This will allow the party to move out of Ozyrandion’s miasma and still be deniable by the Lizardfolk.

She seems to know about Drellin’s Ferry, and a village up-river along the Elsir, Talar. They trade with the latter. She mentions that her folk memory includes a defense at the Nimon Gap, in the hill country west of Talar. Ideal for delaying a massive land army.

Striking while the iron is hot, Cat asks to buy a couple of light river-boats, so that they can float to Drellin’s Ferry quickly. This takes further consultation, for coracles are to Lizardfolk what plows are to land-folk. The equivalent of fifty pounds of gold later, the party owns two coracles, plus sweeps.

Cat drops from 9d6 wealth pool to 8d6 wealth pool

Long Rest!

Confused Counsel

It is dusk again after an eventful 30 hours since the party first set out, when two coracles, expertly controlled, bobble up to the south dock at Drellin’s Ferry.

“First stop, the canteen – I’m ready for some ale and real food!”

But in a very much shorter time than Phoenix’ appetite wishes, they find themselves in the drawing room of Speaker Norro Wiston.

Present: the heroes, Speaker Wiston, Captain Soranna of the Town Watch, Sgt Luskar of the Flaming Fist, Delora Zann of the livery stables, Kellin of the Old Bridge Inn, and Iormel, landed gentry.

Apologies tendered, but urgently called for: Sertieren the Wise, still upstairs in Wiston’s most comfortable bedchamber.

Speaker Wiston poses the question: what do they do now?

This is the heroes’ time to shine: they can big up the bridge-nobbling and marshland stopover, and suggest some decisive action. Do they though? Kind of! Seck merely looks disgruntled, Phoenix looks over the heads of those gathered, picturing pies and ale.

Cat pitches the idea of slaying Ozyrandion. Phoenix underlines that it will be a mission for them! Vir agrees. Ulric agrees. Seck’s body language says something else. A return to the Witchwood would certainly be welcomed by a couple of the town councilors. Cat enlarges: taking down the enemy leaders, once well prepared (they have short-listed poison antidotes) would also be a decisive blow.

And the town? Ulric pitches evacuating, east beyond Nimon Gap.

But Iormel is more worried about the south-west than the Witchwood: after all, the hobgoblin buildup began there. Why yes, he does have extensive fields that way. Soranna pays attention to Ulric and makes notes for evacuation orders. Luskar is impatient and wants action – the watch and militia will not stand. Exactly what action, he does not say. Delora and Kellin merely listen grimly. Speaker Wiston is not really the man for bringing opinions to a summary and vote.

At Cat’s insistence Sertieren is sent for once more.

A chore in the north, a diplomatic note, and rumors of the Dark Tower

As they wait: Vir thinks of slipping out to get word to Avarthel; Phoenix speaks to Luskar who explains Iormel’s landholdings; Seck wanders about moodily evaluating Wiston’s art treasures.

Cat speaks to Delora who retells the same story he knows about Ironwood Gorge; but also mentions that the Tanglewood portion of the Thorn Waste is rumored to have a – yes – Dark Tower, with a lich. As for scouting, Dauth village, up in the high country of Eichental, may host some adventurers that venture into the woods.

Ulric speaks further to Soranna, who suggests he use his authority to evacuate the north bank – but there are a couple of likely holdouts – he best use his judgment. And as for the west – Ulric dislikes the idea of splitting the party – perhaps the Countess may help.

Maps are spread out as Ulric explains the legend of Nimon Gap. Terrelton, will need to be informed no matter what. The Countess is no friend to the Inquisition, but self-interest may bring action. Ulric calls for writing materials. Adventurers to scout Murder Cliffs, please!

Scrying Vraath Keep

Sertieren appears! Nods about affably. Shows no guilt about keeping everyone waiting. Agrees to walk ALL THE WAY BACK to his manor where his crystal ball is. Luskar and Iormel fume about time-wasting – one wants them to go with their plan for the Witchwood – the other wants the south-west scouted.

Cat and Ulric, therefore, accompany Sertieren slowly back upriver to his manor house. Inside he brings up the fuzzy image of a large round tower annexed to a relatively small square keep. An impressive feat, given this is from hearsay!

A flag or banner flies atop the donjon. Here for the first time the adventurers see the Red Hand blazon of the Hobgoblin Warlord.

Red Hand of Doom banner - Transparent background - Album on Imgur

The tubby little mage navigates the image as best he can, focusing on this or that suggested target. Alas, neither Wyrmlord Koth or his minotaur sidekick are in evidence. And perhaps fortunately, nor is Ozyrandion! But there is a terror lizard, a bipedal giant lizard with harness that features a metal attack-boss or spike. And with that, and a good overview of how the keep lies, they must be content.

Nightriders!

Stretching and feeling that it has been a long time since their supper, the three walk back west at Sertieren’s pace. The clouds that masked yesternight have cleared: stars lie brilliant on a sable field. A waning crescent moon shows small, shedding little more light than the stars.

Then from beyond the black blocks that mark the old bridge against the river gloss, comes the cry:

“Awake! Awake! Goblins are attacking the north bank!”

Bright flame leaps in the distance, and from afar, the pair of heroes catch the roar and crackle of flames!

“Where’s the coracle! Quickest way across I’ll be bound!”

So says Cat and Ulric follows along, easily lifting the little craft down from the wharf. After a minute’s spinning about, Cat finds the sweep’s rhythm again.

Meanwhile back in Wiston’s drawing room the other three also catch the raised alarm, and they too race north to the docks. Seeing what Cat is doing, Vir follows suit. Phoenix and Seck scramble aboard and the trio set out: and the session ends.

Everyone begins next session with Inspiration; Vir’s Bless has expired.

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