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Thread: The Fall of Civilization
Thursday, 14th May, 2009, 05:58 AM #71
Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)
The massive triple gates of Fandelose rumble shut behind the last of the defenders as they pour back into the city. Below the city, the three wooden gates are falling before the ogres with their monstrously large rams. From his position high on the city’s third outer wall, General Argos watches, no emotion showing on his face.
“It looks like the dwarven trap has sprung, sir,” Colonel Jaxe observes.
Indeed: the Granite Wedge had stayed behind, drawing hundreds of the soldiers of the Hand into the Black Gorge- before triggering a massive rockfall that smashes down on their pursuers.
But Argos’ only reply is, “Now it will come to a siege.”
“Unless they breach the walls,” Colonel Jaxe answers.
”They shall not. Even if they make it through the first gate, the men in the gatehouse will be able to destroy them via murder holes. More of the same awaits them through each gate.”
Outside of the walls, the massive horde spills into the killing field surrounding the city. Thousands upon thousands of goblins, orcs, gnolls, kobolds and more pour forward, shouting gleefully for human blood. Their advance slows as more and more of them pour through the narrow gates, which- now breached- are already being torn apart and carted away, as are elements of the palisade surrounding the site of the first battle, material to be turned into more siege towers, more scorpions.
The front line of the mass of the Six-Fingered Hand rabble begins to edge forward faster, pressed by the increasing number of troops behind them. Suddenly, with the hiss of a thousand bow strings, a cloud of arrows rises from the city walls and arches over the foreground- and into the oncoming rabble. Screams ring out as goblins and lizard men fall, pierced, only to be trampled by their bellowing fellows.
The rabble of the Hand charges.
”There,” Kratos gestures from a rooftop near the market square nearest the main gates. “Siege towers.” He turns to the sergeant nearest him. “Focus on those towers!”
The sergeant is his spotter. He pulls out his spyglass and takes careful note of the position of the oncoming towers, then turns and begins shouting instructions into the square below, where the crews of the catapults begin reorienting them and adjusting their tension. And then they loose their first shots, huge rocks propelled by the catapult up and over the closer masses of oncoming soldiers towards the siege towers.
One stone hits a tower dead center. Orcs and hobgoblins are flung from the tower to their dooms below, but the tower keeps rolling forward, cracked but not destroyed. Another of the catapults deals a glancing blow to it. Still the tower rolls on.
On the field, several formations of much-more competent Hand soldiers are forming up into lines behind the massive mobs of rabble charging forward. “Hobgoblin elites,” grunts Vann-La. She glances around. She is atop the outer wall, along with hundreds of defenders. She is commanding a small section; Torinn and Ligir are several dozen paces to either side. Both soldiers and peasant volunteers are here; everyone in the city knows their lives are at stake. Small fires, heating cauldrons of sand or oil, are all over, as are long poles with a T of wood at the end, used for pushing scaling ladders away from the wall. Most of the peasants are firing shoddy crossbows into the mass of troops rushing forward, while the soldiers have bows. Arrows whistle out, wounding and slaying the Six-Fingered Hand’s first wave as they rush forward.
We’re as ready as we can be, the Kree warrior thinks.
Torinn strides forward to the edge of the parapet, looking out from between two of the merlons. “Here they come!” he shouts. He pulls out his spiked chain and cracks it like a whip. “Be ready!!”
Further down the line, Heimall has his pike out and is giving a speech to the men and women under his command. “This is it, soldiers!” he cries. “The moment of truth! This is more than our lives at stake- it is the entire Empire, our entire way of life! It’s all on the line, here, soldiers! Stand firm when they come- FOR THE EMPIRE!!”
With a roar, the rabble reaches the wall, many falling to the spikes and ditches around the perimeter, more to the arrows that speed out from the walls in lethal clouds. But more and more of them pour forward, some trying to climb the wall- which has been oiled at General Argos’ command- by hand and foot alone, others throwing up ladders.
Atop the wall, roughly half the defenders cast down their missile weapons in favor of weapons or T poles. Ladder after ladder is shoved over. Sta’Ligir and Hkatha launch fireballs and other destructive magic into the seething mass of Hand troops below. Bodies litter the ground, but some of the enemy attain the top of the parapet.
The Six-Fingered Hand’s scorpions come within range and hurling heavy rocks at the city’s gates. Immediately, Kratos redirects his fire. Soon the siege engines are exchanging fire, but the catapults of Fandelose win the first contest, and then turn their fire back on the siege towers, smashing the damaged one to rubble and then destroying another. More scorpions are rolling forward, but due to the catapults’ edge in range, the defenders annihilate them before they can close.
Further out in the swarm of rabble, the siege engineers see more siege towers, moving forward in pairs. “They ain’t organized enough,” says one of the catapult crewmen, and spits. “If they was smart, they would send all the towers up at once.”
A good point, Captain Kratos admits. What does that tell us about their command structure? Are they having difficulty coordinating the races? It seems like the kobolds are actually the ones that can talk to everyone- I wouldn’t be surprised if they were the ones in charge, at least, beneath Arawn himself.
The catapults continue hurling stones.
Crawling like ants, falling to their doom from the slick wall, stabbed with pikes, pierced by arrows, scorched by spells, the Hand keeps coming even as dusk falls on the first day of the siege. All through the night the battle continues, lit by the smoky haze of the fires lit by the pounding artillery of both sides, by spilled oil and fallen torches.
Again and again the defenders push the attackers back, inflicting losses of almost 50:1 on the enemy. Trying to rotate fresh troops in to relieve the exhausted men defending the city with their lives, General Argos is up all night. The gates come under repeated assault, but when things seem almost lost, a quick sally from a postern gate shatters the Hand’s advance.
Dawn pours light onto a ghastly battlefield, the dead and their blood staining the ground everywhere. Blazing firestone rocks sail out over the field, cast by the general’s own war machines, setting aflame the hillside leading to the upper approaches to the city- not only difficult to cross, it is now made an inferno.
In wave after wave, the enemy pounds on the walls. Muscles aching, our heroes and the people under their command fight on, hour after hour, snatching short moments of rest whenever they can, but that is all they can afford.
Day after day, the assault smashes into the city, the Six-Fingered Hand trying to push through and crush the Imperial resistance. Looking out at the roaring army of humanoids, Loridell can’t help but wonder if there is any more resistance remaining. Does the Empire still exist? What of the Emperor? Are we all that still resists the foe?
Without a way out of the city, without an escape from the sea of troops encircling them, there is no way to know.
Cook is not going anywhere near the walls, no sir. He knows better. “That a place for soldiers and warriors, not cooks,” he mutters to himself.
But that doesn’t mean that he cannot contribute.
He cooks, massive amounts of food for huge numbers of soldiers and support troops. They aren’t looking for taste; they just need the strength to fight on. Good thing, too, as Cook can provide little of the one but has no problem with the other. Ladling large globs of dwarven grub stew into bowls, he nods respectfully to the warriors. These men and women are saving his life every day- and not all of them will survive.
He can do more, too. As the siege drags on into its second week of unceasing violence, he decides that he must. Secret ways, unknown to the humans, run from the dwarven operation in Black Gorge to the underbelly of the city. They showed him some of them when he was in the gorge before. Over the following weeks, Cook learns these passages well, using them to help ferry information and messages back and forth from Fandelose to the isolated dwarves in the Black Gorge- whom the Hand is mostly ignoring after a few costly attempts to attack them in their mountain hold failed.
It is not a glamorous job, but that doesn’t matter. It is important.
And he’s helping his friends.
And, most important of all, he is not in the damned Army.
After two weeks of virtually unceasing attack, the Six-Fingered Hand draws back just out of catapult range and begins a proper siege, trying to strangle the city and cut off its supplies.
General Argos is ahead of them. In the weeks before the horde arrived, he had his engineers redirect a mountain stream so that it now runs through the upper part of the city. Now, using his powers under martial law, he forces the aristocracy and businessmen that live in the upper part of the city to relocate. The buildings are largely razed, and the land leveled and turned into rice fields, flooded by the mountain river.
The siege settles in to a steady state. Time passes, weeks into months. The love affair between Kratos and Livia grows stronger, more passionate. She begs him not to make a fuss about removing her from the household in which she is stationed until after Fandelose is saved and he is a great hero; right now, her family’s status completely depends on her position. Reluctantly, he accedes to her request. “But soon, when we have saved Fandelose, your mistress will not be able to deny us,” he says. “I will be a hero, and I will have you for my wife!”
Sta’Ligir catches occasional glimpses of the gloomy unicorn when he steps momentarily into the fey realms to teleport, but is unable to make contact. He knows something, the wizard thinks, something important...
One day, about two months into the siege, the High Civilizer approaches him with a bunch of pictures of eladrin architecture and a ton of strange questions for him, saying that he might be able to glean some ideas that will help the city in the siege. (Many of the pictures are of eladrin battlements and the like.) Iggy shrugs and answers as best he can. The high priest of civilization is as good an ally as anyone or anything is likely to be, under the circumstances.
The Hand still often throws minor attacks at the besieged, but it is clear that they are content to wait, for the most part. Starvation is on their side- or so they think.
In Fandelose, food is rationed, but the rice crops- assuming that they survive and flourish- will relieve the situation in the spring.
Cook begins visiting the rice fields after he meets a trio of Mao Maos while serving food in a cafeteria. (Mao Mao is a human land of rice farmers and ancient, decadent cultures prone to dragon worship, surrounding Cook’s own home of Muk Nam on the north and west.) They have features and accents similar to Cook’s, and speak the same Eastern tongue as him. They are overjoyed to see someone that is, if not their countryman, at least from the same continent as them. The Mao Maos are three brothers, named Lao Bin, Lao To and Lao Ping. They befriend Cook, inviting him to their hovel at nightfall for some sake. They live on the upper parts of the city, where they tend the rice fields, and over the next few years they become great friends with Bum Po the cook.
Autumn becomes winter. Heimall is visited by several of his cousins, who have been hearing tales of his exploits on the walls and understand that he is one of the heroes of the battle. They are extremely solicitous of his good will and offer to arrange for reasonable quantities of normal gear to be provided for 50% of normal price. They also give to him a magical dagger that their father claimed in war from a dwarven assassin, and opine that they hope it can help the war effort. After the rest leave, one of them- Vedreich- stays behind for a few moments.
“Cousin,” he says, “I understand that you have put out feelers to the city’s underground, asking for help with the war effort.”
“True enough,” Heimall replies.
“Your cries for aid have not gone unheard- or unheeded. In future, if you need to... get the word out... I am your man.”
“Thank you, cousin.”
On the hundredth day of the siege, General Argos gets his first good night’s sleep since it began.
When he wakes, his mind is especially clear. I needed that, he thinks. It has been too long since I have been properly rested. But my mind must be sharp. We are holding- we can hold forever. But that is not enough.
He dresses, then strides to his map room, where a miniature version of the battle is set up. Several officers are murmuring and gesturing at one particular group. “Gentlemen,” Argos nods to them. After the customary exchange of salutes, the general studies what they are looking at.
“They’re building more siege towers, using the wood from the palisades. This time, they will send them in all at once. We must be ready.” He turns to Colonel Jaxe. “We have a lot of raw materials from those mansions that we demolished. Use them to build more catapults. Use the brick and stonework as ammunition. We need to be ready when the attack comes- but we have time.”
“How do you figure?” demands one of his new officers, taken from the local political establishment.
“Because, Lieutenant Keflingorn, it is winter. The rains have already started, and by the looks of the sky, we’ll have a storm rolling in tonight.”
“Mud,” explains Colonel Jaxe. “The siege towers will bog down and become sitting ducks.”
“At least until the weather turns, we are safe- from that particular avenue of attack.”
At midwinter, Loridell is initiated into the Fraternity of Battle, a group of warriors whose numbers have been depleted by the fighting. They accept only the worthy, but in skill at arms and in moral certitude, and they test the young paladin. She passes with honors, displaying both valor and judgment during her tests.
When she returns to the barracks, she is exhausted, but pleasantly so. She throws herself into her bunk. Briefly, just before she falls into a deep sleep, she wonders, Whatever happened to the warforged? Many of them were outside the walls when the siege hit. Do we have any communication with them? Are they even still alive? If so, what are they doing? Then sleep steals her thoughts away, and a blanket of oblivion comes over her.
The next morning it’s back to the walls, with sleet coming down and soaking the field. General Argos’ assessment of the siege towers proves accurate: it is not for several more months until the towers begin rolling at the head of a new assault.
But the citizens of Fandelose have seen that they must all work together to survive. They have seen, by the annexation of the Upper District, that General Argos will not give the rich the preferential treatment they desire, but rather the same treatment as everyone else. Work. Contribute. Give us what you have that we can use to survive. Damn your antique furniture- those chairs are going to be fashioned into the parts of new T poles. We’re housing soldiers here, because they need to be able to reach the wall there quickly. If you won’t work, we’ll put you on the wall to fight.
Every man, woman and child in Fandelose that is able to contribute does.
The first hot day of spring. The ground has finally dried out, and sprouts of grass have begun trying to repopulate the killing field outside of Fandelose. They are doomed to be torn up beneath the churning wheels of the towers, the rush of booted feet. The roar of the renewed assault. The stink of sweat. The catapults bouncing, almost ripping their moorings free of the ground, as they hurl huge masses of stone into the oncoming towers. The archers on the wall fire wave of wave of arrows at them, killing the exposed orcs and hobgoblins.
Mixed rabble rushes towards the wall again, and peasants pick up their T poles. Blood, burning oil, the crash of arrow on shield, the screams of the injured and dying. Total war.
Tower after tower falls, battered to pieces by the siege weapons. The scorpions hurl stones at the gates again, and there aren’t enough catapults to assault them too without letting the towers reach the walls. The outer gate cracks and bends, but does not break- not yet.
Cursing as the reports reach him, Kratos turns his engines on the enemy scorpions, letting the towers creep forward. It doesn’t matter if we stop the siege towers if the gates fall, he thinks to himself. But now half of the scorpions are focusing on the catapults, and a lucky shot hurls a large, oblong stone directly into one, smashing it to pieces and pulverizing two men. Kratos reels back as shrapnel smashes into his breastplate, then regains his bearings.
“Shoot those damn things! Destroy them!” he shouts.
One by one, the scorpions are annihilated. But before he can turn his engines back on the siege towers, one of them reaches the outer wall. A ramp slams down, bridging the gap between tower and wall, and a wave or berserk orcs rushes forward.
Iggy is there, and he meets them with a fireball, slaying many of the attackers outright. But not all. More pour forward, to be met by a hedge of pikemen that rushes forward, bristling like a porcupine. Orcs and goblins scream as they are impaled or hurled from the wall to die on the bodies surrounding the wall.
The tower is pelted by withering fire from Fandelose’s archers. Orcs pour out of it, only to fall, arrows in their vitals. The wounded are pushed down, trampled, finished by the pikemen when possible.
But more of the peasants and the pikemen are falling, now, victims of the besiegers in the tower plus the rain of arrows that is coming more heavily from below. A mass of goblins and kobolds on a ladder manage to fight their way to the top and spill out onto the parapets. The pikemen in the area rush forward, but the goblins hold long enough for one of the orcish priests to attain the wall. More hobgoblin warriors pour up to fill the gap in the kobold and goblin line made by the pikemen, and then they are pushing towards the tower and the area around it.
Iggy blasts them with spells, but the hobgoblins are clearly more elite soldiers than have previously reached the walls. More scorpion attacks smash into the troops atop the wall not far away, smashing merlons to bits. A wide chunk of parapet cracks and slides away, crushing lizard folk and goblins below it as it does but taking half a dozen soldiers to their doom.
The Imperial soldiers form up on Heimall, Loridell and Torinn, while Ligir retreats through the line and pulls out his sunpowder pistol. The hobgoblins form a wedge before the orc and then march forward, hacking peasants down as they come on towards the pike formation. They roar as they reach the pikes, charging forward. Several of the hobgoblins are caught in the bristling hedge, but others slip through, or the long weapons turn from their armor. They begin hacking into the defenders.
Torinn is there, his spiked chain ablaze with the power of Lester as he holds the line. Heimall, Loridell and Iggy back him up, and after a moment wherein their morale looks about to break, the pikemen steel themselves and force their way forward. Torinn spits a blast of electric energy into the midst of the soldiers.
With a roar, the pikemen attack.
The hobgoblins are thrown back. The orcish cleric’s god cannot protect him from the wrath of Lester’s priest. The remaining siege towers are obliterated by the Fandelosian engines, and the scorpions forced to attempt to withdraw. They fail, and are reduced to broken slats and pieces of rope by the catapults.
“The day is ours!” proclaims Heimall to the soldiers. They cheer.
“But that one was closer,” Loridell gasps as the attackers withdraw for the day, harried by a sortie from the sally port on the city’s west side.
“I’ll be damned,” mutters Iggy.
“Huh?” Then Loridell notices that the soldiers are chanting a word, rising in volume as more and more of them pick it up.
Dragon. Dragon. DRAGON. DRAGON. DRAGON...
They have hoisted Torinn on their soldiers and are carrying him, hollering wildly in victory.
“Looks like someone got himself a new nickname,” Loridell says wryly.
“It also looks like the soldiers now have a lucky charm,” Ligir replies.
Next Time: The siege continues!
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Thursday, 14th May, 2009, 06:09 AM #72
Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)
Thursday, 14th May, 2009, 04:57 PM #73
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
That latest update is a monster! Fantastic stuff, and I'm really enjoying how you're fitting in the roleplaying stuff with the combat. I can totally understand how your players feel genuinely involved in the game, without having to spend hours rolling dice.
SussexGamer Blog - infrequently updated Tumblr.
Twitter account is Sussexgamer.
Played in Swordlands Story Hour -campaign now completed.
DM of 4e Adventure Path Story Hour - last updated 8th June 09, game now ended.
Sadly, neither link now works but you can search for either game in the forum itself.
Sunday, 17th May, 2009, 09:06 AM #74
Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)
Outside of the walls of Fandelose, the Six-Fingered Hand has erected a great field of poles, from which dangle living but eviscerated people. Their moans of torment do not reach the wall unless the wind is with them; if they were that close, the archers of Fandelose could put them out of their misery.
Periodically, amongst the various things that the Hand’s siege engines hurl, there will be rotting corpses, full of disease- an attempt to crush the spirit of the city and force its capitulation. But between Torinn and Yabin, the city’s ritualist, any outbreaks are swiftly brought under control.
Month after month, the defenders hold. The rice fields on the plateau that was once covered by the estates of the aristocracy serve their purpose admirably. The people of Fandelose eat, and though they are cut off from the outside, the frequency of Hand attacks tapers off as their tactics switch to an attempt to starve them out.
The siege moves into its third year. By mid-winter, it seems that the besiegers are suffering more deprivation than are the besieged. Between the rice fields and diverted mountain runoff water, Fandelose is well-equipped for its people to eat and drink- and, if their diet might not have the variety to which the citizens were previously accustomed, at least their bellies are full.
A surreal sort of sense of the everyday has evolved. The siege almost feels normal. Everyone knows there is extreme danger at every moment, yet the defenders have so far been so adroit in their defense that they have taken few losses- and inflicted thousands of wounded and dead on the horde of the Six-Fingered Hand. Such success lulls the citizens into a sense of inevitable victory. Between General Argos and his officers, many people think, the war is practically won.
The passage of years necessitates that life go on. Babies are born, old men and women die (and not from arrow or sword). Men woo their would-be ladies.
Vann-La finds herself the unexpected subject of such attention, but it’s only logical. He is a Kree, and she hasn’t seen another of her type in... well, in years. Lar-Gonn is one of the sergeants in the company she commanded at the very beginning, outside of the walls. He writes her Elven poetry and brings her gifts both subtle and attractive.
Slowly, over the last couple of years, the two of them have been circling each other, courting. They have kissed, but nothing else, for an Elven courtship is a slow, languid and- ultimately, at its consummation- torrid affair. But slowly, slowly, they dance the Elven dance, circling and swaying in and out of each others’ reach.
The best gift? He taught her the secret techniques of the Kree battle dance.*
For bravery, and for saving the lives of many of his men, Torinn is awarded with both a Copper Star and a Scarlet Heart. Furthermore, he is promoted to Major.
“I’m the ranking officer of us, now!” he crows to his friends later.
“Great,” mutters Ligir.
“You’ve got a nickname, too,” Loridell says. “The Dragon.”
“Yeah, that’s really gotten around among the men,” agrees Kratos. “I’ve heard a lot of soldiers that don’t know you refer to you as ‘the Dragon’, as well.”
The cleric looks bemused. “All right. The Dragon. I can live with that.”
“There’s something else, too,” Heimall adds. “Come on.”
He walks them to a courtyard, where a half-finished, life-sized marble statue of Torinn sits. “Commissioned,” he states, “by some of those same soldiers.” He claps Torinn on the arm.
Wow, thinks the dragonborn. I wonder if this is how Lester felt in his early days, when he was just a mortal adventurer. Was there some group that he helped save that built the first statue of him, that recognized the spark of his divinity? He holds his gaze on the statue, beaming. The only dragonborn in the city, and I’m a local hero already!
Of course, “already” is after three years of siege.
The dead of night. Sound asleep, taking some much-needed rest, deep in his dreamscape.
A sudden shaking of the shoulder, and Kratos comes awake.
“Sir!” the messenger is saying. “Colonel Jaxe needs you, immediately!”
The warlord scrambles up from his bed with a grunt. “I’ll be there momentarily,” he says groggily, and begins pulling his uniform on. A glance to the window- “What time is it?”
“About two past midnight, sir.”
Another grunt as he pulls his boots on, then, “Lead on.”
Kratos follows the lad, who cannot be more than eleven, and swiftly they come to Colonel Jaxe’s office. Kratos cocks an eyebrow when he enters, for several of his friends are also present, clearly dragged out of bed. Vann-La, Torinn, Heimall and Ligir all nod their greetings, as does Colonel Jaxe. A young corporal who doesn’t quite fill his uniform is in the room as well.
”I’ll get right to it,” the colonel says without preamble. “They have miners and sappers hard at work, digging down below the city to try to undermine the walls. We have countermined them, and our tunnel will be meeting theirs before long. I need you to go in there are kill them, then collapse their tunnel so they can’t continue to use it. It’s a tunnel- it’s not really suited for a large group. We want a quick strike so that we can collapse their tunnel before they can summon reinforcements. You’ll have an engineer, Corporal Lonny, with you.” Jaxe gestures at the other young man present.
“How do you know where they are?” Vann-La asks.
Colonel Jaxe allows himself a small smile. “Fandelose is home to the high priest of a god named Hamel. The high priest and Yabin, the city’s ritualist, have worked together to develop certain ritual prayers to Hamel that tie the High Civilizer into the city. He sensed the disturbance coming through the earth.”
“All right,” Heimall says. “It sounds as though time is of the essence. Let’s go.”
They troop out, Lonny in the lead. Torinn is somewhat discomfited to note that the lad is obviously nervous around the party; clearly, their exploits in the defense of the city have made them all larger than life figures.
“Listen,” says Ligir, “when the bad guys show up, just stay behind us and shoot your crossbow.”
“Well- I don’t have one, you see.”
“Oh, what do you have?”
“A dagger. I’m not really supposed to fight. I’m here to help with the engineering.”
“Okay, well, you just stay back, but if an enemy comes near, try to stab it.”
“Well, except for me. Stay in front of me, but behind them.”
“Because I’m the wizard,” Iggy explains.
That doesn’t really help bring Lonny’s view of the party back down to earth.
The countermine starts in a basement and moves southeast, first descending to a depth of around 16’ and then leveling off. The tunnel is wide enough for three to walk abreast and well-braced. “This is some good engineering,” Heimall remarks. “Did you help do this, Lonny?”
He shakes his head. “No, I’m pretty new.”
They reach the end of the countermine and can hear the sounds of picks on the far side of the end wall. The party prepares to attack when the sappers bust through- and, moments later, they do. The wall has been prepared to allow a large chunk to shatter free at once, so when the Hand’s kobolds break through, they are exposed by the crumbling rocks.
Our heroes take immediate advantage, and a brief but brutal battle ensues. The kobold leaders have some sort of trap-springing powers, and once the party rushes into the tunnel that they have been digging, they find that it is full of areas rigged to collapse. The kobolds take advantage of this and cause a couple of minor collapses that damage Vann-La and Kratos, but the party swiftly slays the sappers. A couple of them flee and get away, but that’s okay, as Heimall points out. After all, their mission is to collapse the tunnel- and now they can. They look the area over for any traps or other hidden surprises while Lonny examines the system of ropes and rigging that are preparing the tunnel for collapse. The others head forward, hoping to draw some enemy troops in while Lonny works. Indeed, Hand reinforcements are on their way, in much greater number than the party had expected- their are several dozen of them.
Quickly, our heroes withdraw and trigger the collapse. Not far behind them, dozens of Six-Fingered Hand troops find themselves suddenly being crushed under stone and soil. Those not killed instantly struggle, but they are buried beneath tons of earth. They cannot move. Crushed, suffocating, all of them die.
On the surface, the party waits for a while to ensure nothing makes it through. Indeed, all is quiet.
“Well,” says Vann-La, “I guess we should report in.”
“Then I’m going back to bed,” grumbles Kratos.
Next Time: Ogres at the gates!
*This is a 9th level daily fighter power attributed to the elven culture from which Vann-La comes. :
Kree Battle Dance-- Fighter Attack 9
You attack two enemies, drawing them in to you.
Standard Action; Melee weapon
Primary Target: One creature.
Primary Attack: Strength vs. AC.
Hit: 2 [W] + Strength modifier damage. Shift 1 and make a secondary attack.
Secondary Target: One creature other than primary target.
Secondary Attack: Strength vs. AC.
Hit: 2 [W] + Strength modifier damage.
Effect: The primary target is pulled adjacent to you.
Monday, 18th May, 2009, 09:03 PM #75
Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)
“So how much back pay you figure we’re owed?”
The second soldier stops shoveling rice into his mouth and peers from bloodshot eyes at the first. They are in one of the city’s mess halls, where food is provided for the soldiers. Several dozen men and women are scattered amongst the tables, chowing down on the rice and chicken available. After a few moments, the soldier grunts, “Don’t have my sums,” and keeps eating.
“Just sayin’,” the first soldier sighs. “I ain’t seen a copper since this all started.”
A shrug. “Nobody else has either.” Nom nom nom.
The first soldier sighs again, puts down his battered tin bowl and stares off into space. “Wasn’t like this in the old days,” he says.
“Would you shut up? I’m tryin’ to eat.”
“Yeah, well, I’m just sayin’. We could stand to see a little pay. It’s been four years.”
“Listen, you idiot, you’re alive. Once we get outta this mess, I’m sure the general will make everything right. He always does. Now would ya shut up and let me eat?”
“I’m just sayin’, is all.”
With the spring comes a renewed offensive. Massive waves of Hand troops come rushing forward, more scorpions lobbing stones, more rabble trying to scale the walls. Again the Imperial Pikemen and the now-veteran peasants of Fandelose push back ladder after ladder. Pikes pry goblins from the blood-slick walls, and the superior range of the Imperial archers keeps the Six-Fingered Hand’s goblin archers under withering fire, preventing them from playing a decisive role in the battle.
Siege towers rumble forward again, but again the artillery of the city pummels them badly. Before they can reach the walls, most of them are destroyed. The catapults fire on the enemy scorpions again, as well, once more demonstrating their superiority.
Atop the inner wall, General Argos watches impassively. His adjutant, Colonel Jaxe, predicts, “We will throw them back again with minimal losses.”
“Perhaps,” Argos says brusquely.
“You suspect this attack has more to it?”
“So far,” the general replies, “our enemy has shown a great willingness to sacrifice many of his troops against us. He knows that he cannot take us with the tactics that he has employed so far. So why is he doing it again? He does not have as many towers as last time, either. I cannot believe that Heshwat the Eviscerator is a fool; therefore, there must be more to this attack. Ahh, there we are.”
Jaxe turns and follows the general’s gaze. On the field of battle, a huge mantlet is moving forward, carried by ogres. Beneath it, they have a huge ram.
“He has enough towers,” General Argos nods, “that we cannot focus on the ram. Colonel, ready men and oil in the gatehouse. I fear that they will take the outer gates.”
From his position, it is easy for Argos to see the Dragon fighting on the outer wall, bellowing directions at his men, striking down a group of hobgoblins that attains the wall and then grabbing their scaling ladder and pulling it up rather than pushing it down. He’s clever, thinks Argos. An excellent example to our other officers. He is such a colorful figure that the men couldn’t help but focus on him.
On the outer wall, the defenders continue stabbing at the enemy as they rise up the walls. Others fire crossbows or pour pots of boiling oil on concentrations of the foe below. Already there are several fires on the field, corpses and gear burning alongside the few scraggly bits of grass and brush that have started growing since the last major battle. Heimall gives a warning cry, pointing out the oncoming mantlet, and the archers change their focus, starting to fire into it. But the top of the mantlet is covered in thick hides soaked through with water. Arrows stick in it uselessly; those that are aflame sputter and go out, failing to ignite anything. Only the arms and legs of the ogres carrying the great shield are vulnerable.
“Shoot their hands and arms!” cries Loridell.
Ogres roar as their hands and arms begin to suffer beneath the onslaught of missiles, but only so many men can fire upon them- for another wedge of elite hobgoblins has attained the wall. Several fan out, firing crossbows to keep the Imperial soldiers at bay, giving their fellows more time to scale up to the top.
Heimall and Torinn lead the assault against them with a roar, leading a small squad of pikemen in a heedless charge forward, and they manage to throw the enemy back down the wall. As the last of them fall over the edge, the Dragon drops his spiked chain and grabs the scaling ladder. Two of his men scurry to help him draw it up.
Then the entire section of wall shakes as the ogre-wielded ram slams into the outermost of Fandelose’s triple gates. Several men are cast from their feet, crying out in surprise. Then a wave of arrows from the rabble closest to the wall flies overhead, arcing back down. A peasant screams as an arrow takes him in the eye, whirling about like a dancer for a few seconds before falling in a spreading pool of blood. Another arrow sinks deep into a pikeman’s thigh, whistling past the man in front of him. Still more strike home as the defenders scramble for the cover of the merlons.
On the ground below, one of the ogres holding the mantlet collapses from blood loss, but another- hidden under the protective shield- takes his place. Still others swing the ram again, and the gate bends inward with the impact. Again, the nearby sections of wall shudder. Chunks of masonry fly free from the area immediately surrounding the gate and a spiderweb of cracks suddenly runs along the stone at the edge of the bronze gate. The ogres draw the ram back and swing it again.
“You got much left?” Ligir gasps to Hkatha.
The tiefling shakes his head. “I need to rest before I have much left.”
Captain Ligir nods. “Then let’s try this!” He plucks a bead from his necklace and hurls it down at the mantlet. When it hits, it explodes into a burst of orange flames. The mantlet helps protect the ogres, but all of them are singed by it.
“That gate won’t hold much longer,” Vann-La shouts grimly. “We need to get some men down there!”
“Once they’re through the first gate, they have the gatehouse above them and men in between the outer and middle walls,” Heimall replies. “Hopefully there’s going to be hell to pay for them.”
The wall shudders again as the ram impacts on the gate once more, shooting several bolts out of the stone with the impact. Large pieces of rock and mortar crash down around the ogres, several bouncing from the mantlet. The gate still hangs, but only barely. More goblin archers are inching forward.
A catapult shot smashes down, pulverizing several of them before they can loose another arrow.
Finally, the outer gate falls.
With a roar, the ogres rush in, dozens on kobolds and goblins on their heels.
“Uh-oh,” Vann-La says.
But the ogres find more than they bargained for beyond the gate. 20’ ahead is a second gate, even stronger than the first. As they start to rush towards it, the big brutes find themselves slipping, unable to maintain their balance.
The rush of rabble following them immediately finds themselves faced by the same problem, and in a moment they are careening off of each other, unable to keep their feet.
The ground is covered in grease.
From each side, pikes suddenly sprout from arrow slits, stabbing out viciously at the invaders. After only a few seconds, just enough to cause total chaos amongst the Six-Fingered Hand troops slipping and sliding on the slick floor, the pikes withdraw.
From murder holes in the ceiling, flaming oil pours down, all over goblins, ogres and kobolds. They scream in pain and panic, and then the grease ignites, and what was total chaos becomes complete and utter pandemonium. The hapless invaders are not able to retreat until it is too late due to the press of troops behind them, pushing forward.
The pikes stab out again, and this time they keep stabbing as more and more rabble are pushed into the killing zone. Now arrows are being fired from above, from most of the murder holes (though two of them have flames from slicks of oil that block their use by the defenders, and one has actually had a terrible mishap that is even now resulting in the death of three of the defenders by fire).
Atop the inner wall, a messenger hands a scroll to the general. He reads it, then grunts. “We have turned this to our advantage. They cannot push through the gates, and in fact the bodies of the dead are blocking their access to the middle gate. But the press is so great that more and more of them are being forced in to die at the pikes of the Fourth Legion.”
After several hard-fought hours, the Hand forces that have managed to ascend to the outermost wall are finally thrown back. Beneath the gatehouse, in between the first and second gate, the corpses of the Hand dead fill the area almost to the floor of the gatehouse.
Once more, the Six-Fingered Hand falls back.
Wounds are bound. Those too seriously injured to fight are removed to various sites set up for chirurgeons to work. Even as exhausted as he is, Torinn makes a point of spending some time spreading Lester’s healing love around.
This was the mostly costly of their attacks yet, thinks General Argos. They are growing desperate. If they can launch a few more attacks like that, we will lose too many men and women. They replace their numbers so quickly compared to us! We must be careful to fight defensively, and we must make the survival of our warriors of paramount importance.
But our position is untenable in the long term. We can hold them for a time- for a long time, obviously- but we cannot win simply by holding them at bay. We will be like a cliff facing the sea- it will wear us down over time, slowly, unless the ocean itself recedes.
No, we must strike back. But we cannot do it yet- not until the warforged have paved the way. And it will take time- time that I must buy Fandelose. We must hold on until NC17 and his warforged have finished with their preparations. To move before then would be foolish, and would only result in our destruction.
The general stares, brooding, at the seething army of humanoids encamped not far from the walls.
No-one can deny that Kratos is a hero now. In the middle of the fourth year of the siege, he marries Livia, with no objections from either her family or her lady.
“I can provide for your family,” he tells his new wife. “Our family.”
The marriage comes just in time, for Livia is with child.
In addition to all of his military duties- which, surprisingly, his aristocratic origin does not lessen at all- Hkatha must still deal with the affairs of his estate, administrating much more directly than he would prefer. Since he fell deeply into debt to daVoi’s faction- especially that traitor, Millbury- he has had something of a dearth of servants. Only one man remains in service, an old butler who worked for Hkatha’s father up until his tragic and untimely death by fire several years past. The butler, Jeve, has nowhere else to go, no friends and no kin, so he has stayed on and tended a basic garden to feed himself when the master is away.
Now Jeve walks in with a look of distaste on his face. “Sir,” he says, “one of your... acquaintances is here. A fellow named Vyth.” The butler sniffs disdainfully.
Vyth? Hkatha is surprised. He has not heard from the fellow since almost a year before the siege began. Vyth is a dealer in exotic narcotics and similar items. Hkatha has done business with him on several occasions in the past; Expensive but reliable, he thinks. Aloud, he says, “Show him in.”
With another disapproving sniff, Jeve obeys.
Vyth is a wiry balding man whose face shows the deep lines and old pock marks of heavy addiction. His eyes dart around constantly, as if he doesn’t trust anything to be as it appears. He greets Hkatha like an old friend- which is surely an exaggeration- and paces around while he talks.
“It seems like it’s only a matter of time, you know,” he says. “Until they take the city, I mean. And, well- I don’t want to be here when it happens.” He faces Hkatha. “Look, I know this might be a sensitive subject- but I believe the stories.”
“About your family.” Vyth hesitates, then plunges ahead. “They say that the Ilmixie line has had terrible dealings with... things. From other worlds. That you all tend to sorcery and... well, I just think that you can help me escape before the city falls.”
Hkatha studies Vyth for a moment, a frown slowly creeping on his face. “Why are you so sure that they’ll take the city, Vyth? We’ve held out so far. Why are you concerned now, when you haven’t come to see me once before this?”
Vyth gulps. “Nothing, I swear,” he says, pacing again. “Look... I just have a feeling. Maybe treachery from within...”
Hkatha rises, his eyes flaring red with menace. “What do you know, Vyth?” he demands softly.
Vyth stiffens. “I... all right, a guy approached me about betraying the city from within shortly before the siege began. I said no, of course- but if he talked to me, he must have talked to other people too, right? So someone must have said yes.”
“Who was it?”
“One of the daVoi lackeys. Millbury.”
Hkatha scowls. His brows draw together in anger and he lets out a growl. “Don’t worry, Vyth,” he snarls, “the city isn’t going to fall. And I will help take care of you. But keep your eyes open for anything, any of Millbury’s contacts, anything, and you let me know immediately if you see anything.”
“For now, get out of here. You’ll be safe enough in the city, so long as you stay on my good side.”
After his old acquaintance leaves, Hkatha broods for a long time.
Next Time: A midnight attack on the rice fields!
Monday, 25th May, 2009, 02:50 AM #76
Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)
On the walls, all is quiet. The multitude of fires of the Six-Fingered Hand horde glimmer redly in the night. “It’s hard to believe that it has been five years,” one of the guards mutters to another.
The older man on duty with him nods. “I know what you mean. And we’re still holding.”
“Yeah- but I don’t think that we’ll ever be free again.”
The veteran studies the young man. “How old are you, kid?”
“Nineteen. What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Just this.” The veteran pulls an onion out of his pouch and starts peeling the skin. “I’ve been under General Argos’ command for a long time, and I’ll tell you what: he never gives up. Never. And he always comes up with an answer. He won’t let no one hurry him, either- he takes his time, he’s careful. But he’ll spring real fast when the time is right.” The soldier takes a bite out of his onion. “We’ll be free again, all right. Ol’ Argos has something up his sleeve. He’s just waiting for the right moment.”
“Seems like it’ll never come,” the younger man grumbles.
“Haw! That’s rich. No, I tell you, kid, Argos won’t make a move until the time is right. But when he does, he’ll break this stranglehold, and he’ll cut all six fingers off of that mean ol’ hand.”
The upper part of the city, built on a series of low hills, has been converted from the aristocracy’s holdings to rice fields, flooded by a diverted river. The triple walls of Fandelose are a mere single wall in the uppermost portion of the city, but they are nearly unassailable due to the rugged mountain paths required to reach them. General Argos has a constant watch in place, but there has not been a serious attempt to take the area since very early in the siege. Even so, the watchers positioned here are not careless. Far from it; they still spy Six-Fingered Hand scouts in the mountains quite frequently, and there are even occasional units of skirmishers that try to shoot down soldiers on the walls.
Despite this, however, in the deepest part of the night, a troop of goblins manages to attain the wall in secret, and- with remarkable speed, and using the aid of a ram wielded by the only two ogres in the attacking force- open a breach in the wall.
By then the alarm has been sounded, and our heroes are on their way, gathering a ragged group of responders as they go. But the goblins- nearly a thousand, split evenly between worg-riders and archers- have enough time to start putting the peasants living on the edge of the rice field to the sword. Those that try to flee find themselves the target of a massed hail of arrows. The screams of the wounded and the dying echo in the night. More of the goblins rampage into the fields of precious rice, some hurling lit torches, some merely trampling.
By the time Fandelose’s counter reaches the Upper District, it is almost too late. The bodies of slain citizens litter the field. The broken stalks of crushed rice are strewn about the fields. Cottages are burning. The air is filled with the smell of smoke and the yelling of goblins.
Four companies of pikemen and four companies of archers, thinks Vann-La. We’re outnumbered pretty badly here. But even if we have to die to stop them, we have to save the rice. Without our food supply, we’re doomed! “Forward!” she roars to her troops.
The pikemen make a desperate rush forward into the fields themselves, where the worg-riders are rampaging. They quickly revise their tactics, though, forming up to meet the oncoming Imperial troops. The archers begin pelting them from the sides.
Again, the Imperial Archers prove their worth. Their superior range forces the goblin archers to first shift their attention from the beleaguered pikemen- already being hammered into by the goblin cavalry- and then to fall back as the Imperial Archers keep firing rhythmic waves of arrows.
All along the lines, the pikemen fight bravely. Their reach gives them a deadly edge, but the goblins’ worgs are fierce and ruthless. Though pierced again and again, they fight with deadly power. Slowly, the line of pikemen begins to crumple.
I know there are reinforcements on the way, thinks Heimall desperately. If only we can hold out long enough!
The Imperial Archers turn their focus again, unleashing a withering barrage at the worg-riders. The pikemen manage to fall back and form another ragged line.
At the edge of the plateau, where the road leads down into the rest of the city, comes a sound: hundreds of boots marching in unison. Reinforcements, thinks Torinn. We’ve done it! We’ve held out!
The enemy redoubles their effort to hurl back the advance defenders, to buy enough time to finish their work. “Let’s get ‘em, boys!” roars Kratos. “You like to eat, right!”
The pikemen surge forward.
“How bad is it?” asks Torinn.
”It could be worse,” the messenger answers. “We’re still counting the bodies, but we probably have enough farmers left to manage the harvest, if only barely; and though they damaged the crops, there is enough live rice left that, with some rationing, we should be able to make through the next winter.”
“Thank you,” the dragonborn mutters, and thinks, Another winter. How much longer can this go on? I would have thought that they would have given up by now! But no, this Heshwat the Eviscerator- he won’t let Fandelose get away. He will fight to the end. Somehow, we have to strike back!
“I understand that you are within your rights to maintain your position as long as the siege lasts, general,” says Bridget Willow, “but I hope you agree with me that once it is over, it is time to restore civilian rule.”
The general studies her. “Once the time has come, I will indeed relinquish my control of Fandelose, Councilor Willow. You need have no fear of my becoming a tyrant.”
“I notice, however,” she replies after a moment, “that you do not seem to acknowledge that the end of the siege will be that time.”
“Councilor Willow, I assure you that at the first possible moment I will relinquish control of this city. But the crisis may last beyond the siege. This is not the only army of the Hand, you know, Councilor.”
“Yet, if they are not here, they do not present an imminent threat-“
“Yes, Councilor Willow, they do.” General Argos gives her a hard look. “I promise you that my motivation is only the safety of your city and people. Surely, you can understand that I must have a free hand to act during this period. Look at how paralyzed the city was before I invoked martial law.”
“Paralyzed, or free?”
General Argos sighs. “I trust my position is clear, Councilor Willow. Good day.”
“It is all too clear, Your Majesty.” With that caustic remark, Bridget Willow turns on her heel and stalks from General Argos’ office. Leaving him to stare at her wake.
Months tick by. Another winter rolls in, turning the churned ground around the great city to mud. The citizenry manages to repair the outer gate, though not with the same strength as it once had. The horde has seemingly grown sullen and stays well out of catapult range- but remains encamped.
When the time to strike back finally arrives, the heroes are atop the walls, watching a major force mass for an assault, when a summons for them arrives. Hurrying off- for they know that their commander would not request that they leave the wall without good reason- they find Colonel Jaxe and about two dozen other senior officers for a staff meeting (including Knile Keflingorn, who is now a colonel himself). The staff meeting is conducted by Argos himself.
He begins without preamble as soon as everyone is seated. “Gentlemen, ladies, thank you for being prompt. I have no doubt that you’re all eager to get back to the fight, so I’ll make this as quick as possible.
“The Six-Fingered Hand has been hitting us hard here for five years, and we’ve had to be almost purely on the defensive. Their advantage in numbers is such that any kind of counterattack would have been prohibitively expensive for us. We’ve managed to maintain our supplies, hold the enemy at bay and keep our spirits relatively high. Now, at last, we have the opportunity to punch back.
“Most of you don’t know what the warforged have been doing for most of the time that this siege has been going on. They have been crucial to setting up our counterattack. The horde of the Hand is huge- the forces besieging us number around a million. That’s more than the entire population of Fandelose by almost fifteen to one. That numerical superiority is their greatest strength; we’ve all seen that the vast majority of them are rabble, and we can kill them ten to one or more when it comes down to soldier to soldier combat on the walls. But their elite troops are much more dangerous, and they have rabble to waste, and kobolds and goblins and orcs breed like rabbits. So they can afford the losses we’re dealing to them and have a new generation of troops ready to fight in only a few years. Some of the kobolds we’ve been fighting are only five years old, ladies and gentlemen. Five years, and they can replace half of their lost rabble.
“But that size has a great cost. They need immense amounts of forage. They aren’t squeamish about what they eat- we’ve all heard the stories about what happens to captured troops- and they are capable of living off of crops and such for quite some time. We’ve seen that they burn the towns and cities but spare the fields; that’s so they will have enough forage to keep going.
“Well, thanks to the warforged, that’s all changing. They have accomplished three chief things for us in the last year. First, they have established a secondary base from which they can strike, outside of Fandelose but only about twenty miles away. They are close enough to aid us when we’re in need, but able to operate independently.
“Secondly, they have been destroying the fields and eliminating all the local food sources for the enemy. Yes, we all know what that means. Our people have nothing to eat and nowhere to go, and if they find anything, we are likely to destroy it. I know that this means terrible hardship for anyone who isn’t inside the walls of Fandelose, but it’s no worse than if we don’t do it. The Six-Fingered Hand is enslaving or eating everyone they find. We must stop them. The food that is out there might feed our people for a few weeks, but the horde’s scavengers will find it. I have judged that the cost to them is worth the cost to us, terrible as it is. We must stop them, no matter what the cost. We can rebuild- but only if we can break them. Otherwise, they will make us all extinct.
“The final thing that the warforged have accomplished by being such a thorn in the side of the horde, is to draw out their rear defense. It has become porous and overextended. From the right direction, with coordination with the warforged, we will cut the enemy’s supply lines and then destroy their command tent and assassinate their leadership.” Murmuring around the table draws a tight smile from Argos. “My plan is audacious, yes. Yet being timid will leave us stalemated until we are old men. We will sneak a small group of elite troops out of the city under the nose of the enemy; they will establish communication with the warforged and arrange a clever attack. The warforged will attack the baggage train and attempt to draw off the enemy’s defensive units. While they pursue the warforged, our troops will fall upon the baggage train and take what they can, destroying as much as possible of the rest. If we can cut off the enemy’s food supply, we will nearly have him.
“The warforged and our troops must either evade or crush the enemy baggage guard troops. Then they will immediately move to perform the same maneuver against the guards of the command tents. They will press hard, and the warforged are willing to make significant sacrifices, in order to draw as many of the enemy guards into pursuing them as possible. And then an elite team of our greatest champions will storm the command tent, and attempt to slay the enemy leaders. With neither food nor leadership, the horde will collapse.”
Vann-La speaks up. “General, who do you have in mind for this mission?”
General Argos answers, “I think you know the answer to that without asking, Captain. You and your friends.”
“Excellent,” Vann-La answers with a wicked smile.
Next Time: A complication or two- such as the Lost Legion!
Sunday, 31st May, 2009, 07:15 PM #77
Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)
Current party roster- don't think I have done one of these in a while in this SH:
Vann-La - elf fighter 9 (multiclassed ranger)
Hkatha Ilmixie - tiefling wizard 8
Cook - dwarf rogue 7 (from the Far East)
Torinn "the Dragon of Fandelose" - dragonborn cleric of Lester 9 (multiclassed fighter)
Kratos Aurion - half-elf warlord 8 (multiclassed warlock)
Ligir - eladrin wizard 8
Loridell - half-elf paladin 7
Heimall Henrickson - human warlord 8
Sunday, 31st May, 2009, 07:33 PM #78
Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)
Drums beat. Around Fandelose, virtually encircling the city, the fires of the Six-Fingered Hand glare like bloodshot eyes in the night.
“Next attack is gonna be ugly,” grunts one of the sentries atop the wall.
“You say that every time,” his companion on the battlements sighs. She shakes her head. “We can hold ‘em forever if we need to, so long as we keep the General alive.”
“Yeah, but holding them off forever is no good.” The soldier hawks up a massive blob of phlegm and spits it over the edge of the wall. “I mean, I’d like to do something else with my life. Maybe have a family, settle down, get back into tanning- I used to be a tanner, did you know that?”
The other sentry heaves another sigh. “No, I don’t really listen when you say the same things night after night.”
Stung by her rebuke, the first sentry falls silent, staring out into the night for signs of movement. Well, that’s what I get, he thinks. Not like the old days, when my charm would win me a girl a week. But Cherm’s right- I do bitch about this all the time, now. And why not? It’s been years! This damned war, it seems like it’s never going to end.
I guess it’s like the General always says- defense won’t win the war, but it will prevent you from losing a battle. But how do we go on the offense? We have just enough people to hold out against their big attacks, when they come. We can’t spare a big enough force to take the field and try to engage them. My guess is, our best chance is to kill the enemy general. But he’s got to be surrounded by hundreds, maybe thousands of guards. No, no way I can see it that this ends good for us. No way at all. I guess the best we can hope for is to stay alive in the middle of the squeeze until- if- the enemy runs out of supplies.
“What really worries me,” Cherm says suddenly, “is that the Hand army has been encamped for almost six years now. So why hasn’t the Empire struck back?” Her voice cracks. “Is Fandelose all that’s left?”
Just after dark. The upper part of the city- now rice fields, once the district of the wealthy- is walled and shielded by the steep slopes of the mountains above Fandelose. It is the hardest part of the city for the enemy to assault, the easiest to defend. With the exception of a few desultory attacks, some siege engine fire and the goblin raid on the rice fields, it has been uncontested throughout the years of siege. It is from here that our heroes- newly outfitted with magical gear constructed by the city’s ritualist, Yabin*- lead their small groups of skirmishers, twenty each, over the wall (except, of course, for Cook, who is not technically a member of the army at all, yet is accompanying them ostensibly as a cook). Quietly, with no light and as little noise as possible, the group disappears into the mountains, heading towards a rendezvous with the warforged two days hence.
They creep along, spread out a fair amount. At one point, a goblin soldier spies Cook, but before he can raise an alarm the dwarf sinks a shuriken into his throat.
Otherwise, things proceed as planned. The skirmishers drift quietly through the mountains, moving undetected until they are outside of the area of encirclement of the Six-Fingered Hand. Then, as dawn breaks, they meet up and take shelter in a cave which they screen with brush. Sentries are posted, and the group gets a bit of shut-eye.
In the late afternoon, as the officers (our heroes) are discussing when to break cover, a scout hurries up. “Sirs!” he exclaims.
“What is it, soldier?” asks Captain Ligir. “Have you spotted the warforged?”
“No, sir. We have encountered a scout who claims to be from another Imperial legion in the area!”
“What?” exclaims Captain Vann-La.
“Take us to him,” Major Torinn demands, “immediately!”
The scout, Hyracuse, claims to be a member of a lost unit that was destroyed. However, it is clear that he is hiding something. He is evasive and won’t name the unit that he is with. Still, he does seem to hate the Six-Fingered Hand and, while wary, is friendly and seems eager to slay goblins and kobolds himself. He asks the party for their story.
Captain Heimall replies, “We are from Fandelose, which still stands, but is under siege by the Six-Fingered Hand. We intend to break that siege- but I think we had best wait to say more until we know more of who you are.”
Hyracuse glances around at the hard-looking soldiers everywhere, scarred from years of fighting on the walls. He nods. “Why don’t you follow me, and I’ll take you to them. If you really are fighting the good fight, my commander will be overjoyed to help in any way that he can.”
Warily, our heroes agree, and they follow Hyracuse to a hidden vale. Indeed, his words prove to be true; there is a tattered legion hidden in the valley. There are around 800 men in the camp- a huge number of soldiers, compared to the less-than-200 skirmishers that Fandelose has dispatched. “We call ourselves the Lost Legion, now,” the scout says sadly, but will not say more.
Captain Heimall, however, has already seen enough to draw his conclusions. The standards, the insignia on the uniforms... I know what legion this is. It has some men mixed in from other legions, no doubt survivors that they took in- but it is unmistakable. And now they call themselves the Lost Legion. A cold dread settles into Heimall’s chest cavity. What has happened to them?
The party is shown to the command tent of the leader of the Lost Legion. Runners have already announced their arrival, and they are shown in immediately. An older man, tall, with skin like leather and dark eyes set beneath a thin brow, stands awaiting them. As they walk in, a staggering realization hits the party.
Grand Marshall Prieve. The Grand Marshall of the Imperial Army. The head of the Imperial Army. He outranks everyone except the Emperor himself in matters military.
Everyone immediately salutes.
Grand Marshall Prieve returns their salute. He is ramrod-straight, his spine like iron. “Gentlemen, ladies,” he nods to them. “Welcome to our encampment. It seems that you have around 150 soldiers in your group, yes? You will be a welcome addition to our forces. Now, report. Where are you from? Who commands you? What is your status?”
“Sir,” replies Captain Vann-La, “we are troops from the nearby city of Fandelose, under General Argos. Fandelose still holds, but remains besieged. We are on a mission to attack their supply train, to draw off the guards from the commanders’ tent, and then assassinate Heshwat the Eviscerator and his ranking officers.” Carefully, she omits mention of the warforged. He wants to add us to his command, she thinks. We can’t allow that to happen. And if we can convince him to back us in our mission, it might just make it significantly easier. No, best to leave out all mention of the warforged until the last minute. Besides, I don’t think Grand Marshall Prieve would like their answer when he tried to put them under his command.
At Argos’ name, the Grand Marshall’s eyes widen and he seems to stand even more fiercely straight. “Argos, eh?” There is no disguising the satisfaction in his voice. Clearly, General Argos is a name that Prieve knows- and respects. It is writ as plain as day on his features: There is no other general that I would rather have at my side for this terrible doomed war.
“With all due respect, sir,” Captain Heimall speaks up, “what about you? Why are you calling this the Lost Legion now? Isn’t,” he hesitates for a moment, “isn’t this the Sun Legion?
“The Emperor’s own?
“And if it is, sir- where is the Emperor?”
Grand Marshall Prieve draws in a deep breath. “Emperor Panthos died in battle just about two months ago. Yes, captain, we were the Sun Legion, but we failed. We are lost, now. We guard the heir, but he is only three years old- far too young to be a viable ruler. He may never become the Emperor at all if he does not reach the age of majority.”
“Sir, please- aid us,” says Hkatha. His voice is like silk. “We could use your help, and you would be able to strike back. Obviously you have not been inactive for the last five years; your legion is clearly not at full strength and you have obviously had to recruit from other groups of survivors. Clearly you haven’t given up. If you help us break the siege on Fandelose, you will have somewhere to rest, to re-equip. A base from which we can counterattack.”
Grand Marshall Prieve declares, “My legion has been playing a hiding game while looking for any sign of a place where they can either weather the storm or strike back, but so far without any luck. Now you tell me that the chance to make such a place is before me?” He slams his fist into the palm of his other hand. “Aye, we shall aid you!”
Over the next couple of days, the party convinces Grand Marshall Prieve to leave them under Argos’ command. Then they mention the warforged- which, it turns out, the Lost Legion has had under observation for several years but had not previously revealed themselves to. The party then establishes contact with the warforged, who are already aware of General Argos’ plan somehow. A lot of coordination and a couple of days later, they are ready to make their move.
First the Lost Legion and the warforged successively draw off the majority of the baggage train’s guards, then the skirmishers move in and annihilate a great deal of the train itself, shooting them down with arrows. A few of them focus on destroying the token force of rabble and archers that are still present to defend the train, and in less than an hour, the attack is over, with the supply line cut and a huge reserve force of Hand troops setting off in pursuit.
Including almost all of the forces surrounding the command tent.
Carefully, the party sneaks forward. Now it is just eight of them- no more. Any more would be too obvious- it would be impossible to pass unseen through the pickets, even as diffused as they are with all of the forces that are pursuing the three groups that struck the baggage trains only half an hour apart each.
“There are still troops up beyond the tent, not too far ahead,” hisses Loridell. “We won’t have too long before there’s a major response.”
“We knew that already, though,” Torinn mutters back. “Doesn’t change anything.”
“Oi, this is a bad idea,” Cook groans to nobody in particular.
The pavilion tent up ahead is large, well-lit from within. Voices, some sounding arrogant, others whining, emanate from inside of it. Hkatha whispers a spell and fades from view as Vann-La moves up, drawing a dagger, and quietly cuts a long vertical slit in the wall of the tent. She peers through it- huddled on the floor beyond the slit are a bunch of exhausted, hungry-looking human slaves. She motions them to be quiet and stay low.
Cook slips past her, silent and unseen in the shadows. He peers through the curtains into the pavilion’s main compartment. There they are, he thinks.
There they are indeed. Dominated by a growling, foul-tempered hobgoblin with a wicked-looking glaive strapped to him, the party sees a group that includes a goblin dressed in jewels and finery, a robe-wearing kobold drinking a glass of wine, an orcish axeman in plate armor that dangles with trophies- especially fingers, a savage-looking gnoll gnawing on a piece of human jerky and clutching a rod topped with a hyena skull, and five uniformed hobgoblin guards.
Before he can chicken out, Cook hurls a shuriken at the kobold.
Next Time: Our heroes in battle with Heshwat the Eviscerator, Morl the Goblin King, Vypp the Director of Kobolds, the Orcish Warlord Tursh and the Mouth of Yeenoghu!
*Due to many war encounters that yielded no treasure, I awarded each pc a major magic item before they started the “sneak out of the walls” bit, to wit:
Cook: A pair of flanker’s boots (AV 129).
Heimall: A flaming glaive +3 (PH 234).
Hkatha: A robe of defying storms +3 (AV 49).
Kratos: An ironskin belt (PH 253).
Loridell: A righteous greatsword +3 (AV 77).
Sta’Ligir: A necklace of fireballs +3 (AV 153).
Torinn: A torc of power preservation +3 (AV 154).
Vann-La: A pair of breach bracers (AV 116).
Sunday, 31st May, 2009, 09:37 PM #79
Wow. I found and read this ENTIRE thread today. And now you update!!
Is there available information on your campaign world? I would really enjoy reading more about the background, house rules, and such about this.
Monday, 1st June, 2009, 12:05 PM #80
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Oh holy , this is going to be one hell of a fight! Can't wait to read the next update!