The Elsir Vale Heroes for this session
In order of appearance
Cat Weasel, Teulon warlock of Titania;
Phoenix Pilandaros, Tlingit barbarian in Sea Eagle pact;
Ulric von Kessel, Teulon paladin of the Inquisitors;
Seck Rustrau, Teulon rogue of the hunter-scout type;
Vir Onden, half-wood-elf ranger/were-tiger
Part One: The Prosser Vote
The story so far
During Belated Diplomacy (14.01) our heroes swing by Hammerfast, in order to directly persuade the Vale dwarves to support their human friends. Stonesinger of the Holds Uldrina Flamehair sets them a side-quest: the Six Blades of Prosser are vaunted adventurers of yore. Bringing them into the story will add luster to it, and Uldrina will then look favorably on their plea.
While the Liberator rests at Nimon Gap, Cat and Phoenix ride borrowed horses to exhaustion, east to Brindol, then with fresh mounts, race north to Prosser by dawn.
It’s barely a village. The largest building on the market square is an obvious inn. Warm light shines beyond the door. Cat throws the reins about a hitching rail and enters. Phoenix, numb from the ninety-plus mile ride, takes time to gather Mocair and look about. Peasants are already about their business. The sun promises a harshly bright day. This village is indefensible, though a couple of taller buildings may be some use. He shrugs and blunders in too.
“We have a no-huge-weapons rule here my friend – leave it at the door,” a female voice calls.
She is a veteran of adventure, able to make decisions swiftly: her name is Deillyr of the Six Blades, but these days she is village constable and innkeeper. Or to put it in her words “kind of run the town.”
“I cannot be parted from my axe.”
“‘Out you go then.”
Phoenix loiters outside as the sunlight creeps down from the inn gable to his head. He gets the drift: Deillyr is surprised by the quest – and Prosser seems so out of the way that the invasion is news – but willing to put it to a vote.
But not the vote of the Six Blades: it will be a village vote. She heads upstairs and soon a Magic Mouth type gong sounds, pulling the able bodied in for a village hall meeting.
Deillyr states Cat’s case, without prejudice. The villagers discuss matters briefly. Cat points out that if Brindol falls they will not survive. Then it’s put to the vote.
I make this a multiple Rep check. Each player rolls a d10. The scores are totted up. I give the village a d10 for each of the Six Blades. They outscore the 5d10, but only by 2, and one of the 6d10 was a 2, which is a fail. So considering the result as a draw…
“Our wizard, Sardith, will go with you. He can teleport himself out of trouble if need be.”
“It’d be handy if he can teleport us to Nimon Gap” – Phoenix
“No, no, no… yes” – Sardith as the DM checks his spell list
“Great, let’s get our gear and go, it would have been a long run.”
“I seem to recall Nimon, been that way many a time… remind me… was it a town?”
Phoenix hastily explains the land and place (with a good Survival check) and that shifts the Teleport % roll up to “accurate.” And they arrive at Nimon Gap.
I’ve been dropping into “battle planning mode” every so often over the past several sessions. It did take a long time for the scale of the confrontation to sink in. They have thus far arranged that Nimon Gap be defended by Drellin’s Ferry villagers, the Flaming Fist detachment that was was sent to Drellin’s Ferry, plus any local loyalists that can be brought there. Their direct diplomacy at Hammerfast and Prosser is an important extra step.
Part Two: Planning for a Heroic Intervention
The story so far
Drellin’s Ferry evacuates, the refugees streaming eastward under the eye of Captain Soranna of the Watch, Lord Norro Wiston, Brother Derny, and hardened mercenaries of the Flaming Fist led by Sergeant Luskar.
Alas, Terrelton proves to be the reed that bends. Lady Danforth throws in with the Hobgoblins! The refugees continue east to Nimon Gap where, legend has it, a mighty army was once stalled. Behind them, the hobgoblin hordes muster and slowly, foraging as they go, pursue.
At the Witchwood, the Old Way is strong. After some adventurers clear her village of danger, Adranna the Young reads the omens and joins the defense. She also inspires young Lady Celiira Nesten of Talar, who begins her muster.
Local civil defense is led by Innkeeper and Boss, Eva Blackwell.
Ulric works his way through a number of introductory meetings while Seck maliciously stalks Lord Norro from convenient Maelsauga range. Vir stays pretty mellow, his were-tiger side not showing for now.
Teyani Sura, one of the Lions of Brindol, must return to report to Lord Jarmaath in detail. She has found a mount and must leave now. Is there any particular word she should carry?
Ulric merely asks her to do her best to appeal that real warm bodies from Brindol’s muster be sent here.
Seck and Ulric check that on the civil defense side, preparations to manage the wounded are in hand. The women and older children of Nimon and the refugees will see to that, under Eva Blackwell’s supervision.
Village militia, many simply drafted from untrained villagers, will have their nerve stiffened by the Flaming Fist, distributed along the line.
Thaardin does not take long to settle in! He soon has his honor guard stripped of their heavy armor and working like fiendish masons. Heavy stones are carried up to the first throat of the pass itself and a solid and deep plinth built, upon which is raised a parapet.
The labor goes on apace. By the time Cat, Phoenix and Sardith teleport in, Flaming Fist mercs and sturdy villagers are engaged under Thaardin’s direction, turning what was a crude sandbag rampart into a well-founded turf rampart. Village militia can defend most of the ridgeline behind good cover.
Now it’s time for the Vale Heroes to put their heads together with the command and magic complement, and come up with any strategy other than “defend.” Cat calls a meeting of spellcasters, while Phoenix heads off to speak to Luskar.
(Seck drops out of the planning, he is sure that Norro will betray them and follows him round. He only asks that he be given the chance to drop the Dust of Sneezing and Choking.)
Plan 0: “if only Lars Ulverth and some Brindol Guard were here.” – Hindsight is a great thing. Ulric makes a 7d6 retrospective prep roll, looking for 6’s, and scores nothing. He did not think to write a note for Teyani to take to Lars.
Plan 1: “throw our lives away on the bridge.” – Soranna makes a dramatic and romantic appeal that Ulric not throw his life away. Norro strolls up, to offer the idea that the air raft may be of use. He refuses Ulric’s Persuasion attempt to accompany the paladin to certain doom.* Norro exchanges rolling eyes with Sertieren the Wise and leaves. Sertieren attempts to draw the paladin’s attention to the air raft. Ulric replies rather shortly, and refers to Cat’s brilliance. Sertieren asks if Cat is a noted war-leader. The sound of crickets is loud as Ulric considers this question. After Cat’s conference and Adranna’s commitment, they all circle back to this idea, taking it as far as having knotted ropes flung over the rampart so that they can clamber up above the pursuit.
After considerable scolding from the DM, further ideas arise:
Plan 2: “make a flanking sweep and surprise the leadership.” – Phoenix has had a thought about the air raft. He walks over to Luskar to re-learn that the sergeant believes in direct action. But Phoenix has no definite plan. The talk turns to how they can perform a heroic feat, attacking giants. Phoenix again has no definite plan. But the chance to sit and consider makes Luskar realize that there is no provision for air defense, and he rushes off to talk about that with Thaardin. Phoenix follows.
Plan 2b: “drop idiots on giants.” – evolving out of the lack of a solid plan from 2 above, the thought is offered that Luskar and Phoenix could drop on the giants off the air raft.
Plan 3: “skirmish forward on air raft, bait the enemy fliers, get rid of them.” Since the militia are super-vulnerable to air attack, the Liberator can be used to take out enemy fliers, which at least as far as can be seen, consist only of two manticores and a wyvern. On the other hand a dragon could easily be hidden behind the rolling ground of the area. At the reconvened spellcaster meeting where plans 1 and 2 are discussed, Thaardin mentions this before the adventurers arrive at it, because by this time Luskar has raised the issue of defense against aerial attack.
The issue of the bridge defense
Using the bridge as a choke point, or indeed an absolute point of denial, fixes the attention of all of the adventurers. At Cat’s conference, Adranna the Young offers to deal with that, allowing them to operate as free agents rather than under plan 1 above. But despite that, Cat keeps circling back to it. As do all of the others, once he reports back.
Eventually, they settle for knowing that the enemy will find it hard to get past the bridge, allowing them to act on the Liberator or elsewhere. As things turn out, none of them stations themselves anywhere in range of the bridge. And they strip Adranna of two spell slots.
The issue of the flanks
While the defenses stretch well along the ridgeline, enemy could clamber around the flanks. Militia have enough missile weapons to help themselves at short range, but not to negate any flanking. Vir asks that Plant Growth be thrown down on each flank. (Neither he nor Cat offer to do this.)
Although it is two precious level 3 druid spell slots, that is completed before the adventurers reconvene.
The issue of battlefield communications
This little issue crops up when Ulric and Phoenix reconvene with Luskar. By this time the brawny merc has completed his endeavors and is ready to don armor. They really fail to elucidate any concrete plan – in fact they cast great doubt into his mind. It seems the team plans to simply rely on Phoenix noticing signals, as though he can look everywhere at once.
Having agreed that Luskar will stay near Phoenix they wander away and fail to rendezvous with him later.
Part Three: Onset
The issue of if and when to strike first
Naturally inclined to take the fight to the enemy, they wonder (aloud) if they persuade either the Flaming Fist or the militia to do that! They have to be reminded that certain decisions have already been made.
Once they realize that if anyone is sortieing, it will be them, their attention turns urgently to using the Liberator. Plans 2 and 3 are on the table!
With three of the five intent on plan 3, Ulric wants some assurance that such a plan will be worth trying. Brother Derny can cast the dice for an Augury. But he needs a specific question. “Should we sortie out now, against the fliers, will our victory be assured?”
Go! Go now!
Brother Derny casts the dice. Focuses his mind on the Holy: “Yes! Weal! If you strike now it is not too late! Go Now!”
It’s a quick retreat onto the Liberator! Lothair has had plenty of rest and greets them in sanguine fashion:
“Where away gents?”
“We will fly west, bait the fliers and slay them.”
“Ah, I see, up we go…”
As the Liberator rises above the plane of the ridge, enemy battle horns sound! The fleetest enemy units race along the road, and onto the bridge!
“We are going to need to use missile weapons, Lothair.”
“Ah, it’s open top and the wind on our faces? Wait just one moment…” Lothair leaves the tiller and operates the six-faced control. Immediately, bright breeze and harsh horns surround them. And the screaming roars of manticores!
Vir lines a manticore up, Bonus Actions Hunters Mark, and sends two heavy longbow shafts into it. Cat immediately follows up with a Mote from his Crown of Stars, and it explodes into chunks of meat. The second manticore receives three of his Eldritch Blasts as it hurls spikes into Cat and Vir, then takes a telling strike from Maelsauga as it climbs past the oncoming Liberator. The pair targeted have taken scant damage, being in half cover.
Phoenix knows that his totem powers have increased to the point that he can fly for a few moments: he’s never tried it before, but there’s no time like the present! He leaps, finds himself a little shy of the creature, and descends – and the Liberator has traveled on by!
And as Phoenix begins to be persuaded by gravity, the session ends.
*Based only on their performance to date against detachments of the horde.