Travels through the Wild West: the Isle of Dread

Poll: Who is your favorite character in Travels through the Wild West?

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    Travels through the Wild West: the Isle of Dread

    Greetings!

    I’ve included a poll to open this thread, for my returning readers to comment on their favorite character(s) of the TttWW story hour. Please elaborate on the reasons for your choice in a post, and feel free to add any comments about your reactions to the story thus far. I’ve tried to include a mix of narrative, dialogue, and pure action in the story, along with a mix of evil plots and occasional twists.

    To read the first two books of the story to date, visit the following link:

    http://www.enworld.org/messageboards...=&threadid=152

    Book III of the chronicle takes the story in a new direction, out of the Realms altogether for an interlude to the first published module I’ve integrated into the tale. It’s a classic: the old Expert Set Isle of Dread (I used to love the old Sinbad movies, and the whole ‘lost world’ concept … at least until the “Jurassic Park” movies). But fear not! The brave exiles (or at least some of them ) will make it back to Toril in good time, and find that dire threats and evil plots are still waiting for them there.

    I will continue the story on this thread in a few days. Until then, I look forward to reading your responses!

    The Characters (group started out at ECL 3, with 2,700gp of equipment each):

    • Lok: Earth Genasi/Half-Dwarf Fighter 5

      Balander Calloran (“Cal”): Rock Gnome Bard 2/Illusionist 2

      Benzan: Tiefling Fighter 2/Rogue 2/Conjurer 1

      Delem: Human Sorcerer 4/Cleric 2 (Kossuth)

      Lady Dana Ilgarten: Human Cleric 2 (Selûne)/Monk 2 (joined the group in Book II)


    The character stats and progressions are listed on my Rogues’ Gallery thread.

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    Travels through the Wild West, Book III

    Summary of Events so far:

    Four companions meet by chance at a desolate crossroads west of the city of Elturel, in the Western Heartlands of Faerûn. Each of the four is a wanderer, by choice or by fate, and as they share a campsite upon an old ruin they are attacked, first by a group of brigands led by a dark cleric of Mask, and then by an ogre ghoul that had been entombed under the ruin.

    Brought together by shared danger and shared loot, the four travel eastward to Elturel, and reach the village of Dunderion. There they learn that Benzan was the target of the bandits, seeking to recover a mysterious statuette that the tiefling had stolen from the cleric. That same night the sheriff of the village, a man named Kevrik Telwarden, shows up and announces that he is forming a posse to chase down a group of raiders who attacked a merchant caravan nearby. Among those captured by the raiders was the daughter of a powerful nobleman. Cal offers to join the posse, and his new companions accompany him.

    The chase leads them south to the River Chionthar and beyond. They track the trail to the encampment of a bandit leader named Steel Jack, who leads a mixed group of humans and hobgoblins. Benzan’s scouting allows the posse to get the drop on Jack’s forces, and after a brief battle they emerge victorious.

    But the prisoners have already been taken on to the Wood of Sharp Teeth. Faced with dissention within his ranks, Telwarden and the trapper Cullan go on alone with the four companions, sending the rest of the posse back to Dunderion with instructions to send more help after them. The six companions warily enter the outskirts of the wood, and tussle with a group of bloodthirsty stirges. That encounter costs them most of their horses, but they press on regardless. Cal communicates with a badger to learn more about the location of the bandit base, and with that clue they are able to find their goal: a small fort hidden within the forest protecting a nearby silver mine. Apparently a group of hobgoblins is using prisoners as slave labor to work the mines.

    The companions decide to attack the mine, to try to free the prisoners. They are successful, but an alarm is raised and they find themselves in a desperate melee against more than a score of hobgoblins. Working as a team, they are barely able to hold out, but the hobgoblin leader, a cleric of dark gods, retreats back to the fort, where the noblewoman prisoner is being held captive. The companions, worried about what the cleric will do to his prisoner, hurry after in pursuit despite the fact that most of their spells have been depleted.

    The fort has only a few hobgoblins left in garrison, so the companions try a desperate all-out attack. Benzan is able to scale the stockade and open the gate, but is mauled to within an inch of his life in the process by the hobgoblins’ war dogs. Luckily, Delem is able to awaken his newfound clerical powers at this point, and save the tiefling’s life. Lok and Telwarden meanwhile head into the fort and confront the evil cleric, and are able to defeat him at the cost of Telwarden’s life. Saddened by the loss of the brave sheriff, but with the prisoners safe, the companions return to Dunderion.

    They next travel to Elturel, where they are honored by Lord Dhelt for their efforts and feted by the wealthy merchant and noble elites of the city. Clearly their troubles are not over, though, as assassins try to kill them right after an audience with the High Rider. Lok is able to determine that the equipment used by the assassins is from the same source as that used by the hobgoblins in the forest, leading them to track down the source of the weapons—a smithy located there in the town.

    Their investigations at the smithy lead them to a warehouse along the city’s docks, where they find clues pointing them to one of the noble houses of Elturel. They are also attacked by a shade assassin, whose strange powers nearly lead to their deaths. After defeating the shade they decide to press on that very night to the estate of the nobleman who is apparently behind the whole thing—the raids, the mining operation, and the illegal trade in weapons and silver in Elturel itself. They find the leader, all right, but it is not the nobleman, who was just a pawn, but a powerful cleric of the god Cyric. They confront the cleric, who summons a demon to help him, and overcome him. The cost is terrible, however, as Cal is killed in the battle.

    The companions have uncovered an evil plot and defeated a mighty adversary, but the victory is hollow with the loss of their friend. Lok, Benzan, and Delem elect to go to Baldur’s Gate, and seek a cleric with the power to raise Cal from the dead. They travel swiftly down the River Chionthar, fighting off an attack by kir-lanan gargoyles along the way. Once in Baldur’s Gate, they meet with the high priestess of Tymora, who agrees to raise the gnome—for a service. The companions agree to escort an emissary of the church to faraway Chult, on some unrevealed errand.

    Cal is raised, and reunited again, the companions prepare for their journey. They upgrade their equipment, but before they can leave, they are approached by the same young noblewoman they rescued from the hobgoblins in the Wood of Sharp Teeth. The young woman, Lady Dana Ilgarten, asks to accompany the companions on their journey for reasons of her own, and they reluctantly agree.

    The companions depart from Baldur’s Gate on a sailing ship, the Raindancer, along with the Tymoran emissary, a halfing cleric named Ruath. Near the Nelanther Isles they are attacked by pirates, who are repulsed after a desperate battle. The ship limps back to Velen, where the companions are accosted by thieves seeking to relieve them of some of their extra loot. Leaving a bunch of battered thieves behind, they continue their journey. The ship is attacked by a flock of strange birds that shoot bolts of lightning on the next leg of their journey, but these too are repulsed. After a stop in Memnon, the ship continues on the final leg of its journey.

    Unfortunately, a severe storm strikes the ship in the Shining Sea. Sensing that the storm is unnatural, the companions are able to discover a strange gem emanating green energy in the ship’s bilges. Unable to approach the gem without suffering ill effects, they decide to destroy it using spells and acid arrows. They are successful, but breaking the gem releases a vortex of energy that knocks them briefly unconscious. They recover to realize that the storm is gone—and that the clerics’ links to their patron gods have been dramatically weakened. Confused, they make their way up to the deck of the ship, where they realize that the stars above are unfamiliar…

    The story continues from there…

  3. #3
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    I arrived!

    My favorite character is Cal, but I cannot say why, because I don't know

    Please, read my post in the old thread about the website, and answer it if you can

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    My Favorite Character

    Benzan, of course! *sighs* I just love the bad boys.

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    Comment

    First, as a writer myself I must apologize - I know how much feedback is wanted/needed. I have, however, not been able to post till now. RL keeps me from posting often, but not viewing. I begun viewing the Story Hour of yours at the beginning, and I must say that is one of the best - and truly captures the feel of D&D 3E…

    Thank You,
    Djordje

    PS. Thank you a lot for the Stat blocks in the RG

  6. #6

    fav character

    Hey there, first time post to your thread...i think. I must say i love it so much i'm in bangkok on vacation right now and i'm still checking in to read it.

    My favorite character has to be Lok, it could be my partiality to the silent dwarf types....which for some reason i end up playing a lot...i just love readin about the strong man's axe biting into the baddies and the leaving a trail of frost.

    all that to say that lok rules and keep it coming lazybones!

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    Yay! New posters...

    Thanks for your feedback, Djordje and Salthorae, glad to have you on board (thanks for the link in your sig, Djordje, I appreciate it!).

    Talindra: looks like several other readers agree with you! I have to say, while I try not to play favorites when I'm writing, I really enjoy writing Benzan. I have more "Benzan days" around the office than I probably should (especially Mondays-- brings out the cynic/smart-alec in me!).

    Horacio: yes, a number of my earliest readers noted that they liked Cal... maybe it was his upbeat personality, eternal optimism, and quiet leadership of the group. He's had to come to grips with a real trauma lately what with coming back from the dead, but I think the support of his friends is going to help him rediscover his old zest for life. His leadership will be needed in facing what's to come!

    Any other posters/lurkers, feel free to chime in (and don't forget to vote in the poll), but now it's time for Book III!



    * * * * *

    Book III, Part 1

    The hot sun blazed down on the endless sea.

    The damaged Raindancer limped along on the faint hints of breeze that drifted across the waters. On the main deck, a few crewmembers moved about their duties in a lackluster fashion, conserving their energies in the same way that the crew was conserving their food and water supplies. A full ten-day had passed since they had escaped from the strange storm, and each additional hour seemed to add a small measure to the growing uneasiness that pervaded the vessel.

    Their course bore southward and slightly to the east. Their initial destination had lay on a southwesterly gradient, but after the storm Horath had shifted it slightly, reasoning that with the storm blowing them off course they might miss the peninsula entirely, and drift out into the Trackless Sea. Better to sail deeper into the Shining Sea, he said, than risk that danger. All of the sailors on board could see that the decision was increasingly meaningless, however, as the realization set in that they were far, far away from where they had been before the storm. It was not only the sudden change in the weather, or the strange stars that hung in the sky above them each night. Word of the clerics’ discoveries about the sudden distance between them and their gods spread quickly, but even beyond that, there was a strange something in the very world itself, a sense of wrongness that none of them could quite place.

    Without any alternative, however, there was little that the crew could do but grumble, although Horath did find himself breaking up a few brawls born of frustration and uncertainty.

    Without even the distraction of work aboard the vessel, its passengers had even more time on their hands to ponder what twist of fate had catapulted them here… wherever “here” might be. They practiced their skills, passed hours playing cards or throwing dice, or listening to Cal as he spent time practicing with his new lute. Delem retrieved the pieces of the gemstone that they had sundered, but there was nothing to be learned from them, now just shards of clear stone that radiated only a faint afterimage of magic.

    So it was with relief early one morning that the companions hurried back abovedecks to the sound of the lookout’s call. The crew was already gathering on the port rail, where they could just make out the faint line on the horizon that signaled land ahead.

    “Finally, a chance to get off this ship!” Benzan said with a grin to his companions as they made their way up to the aft deck.

    “Not to mention get a bath,” Dana snapped at him.

    “You aren’t exactly fresh yourself, princess,” the tiefling shot back with a smile.

    Cal disarmed the brewing clash by addressing Captain Horath, who was looking at the distant land through his spyglass. “So, captain, what faraway shores have we at last stumbled upon?”

    “We’ll find out soon enough,” the captain replied, giving an order for the helmsman to alter the ship’s course to the east, more directly toward the faint line on the horizon.

    “Where’s Cleric Talasca?” Cal asked, noticing that the halfling woman wasn’t present.

    “She was down in our quarters, last I looked,” Dana said. Cal sensed that there was something more there, a current of disquiet between the two women, but didn’t press the matter.

    As if to reinforce the encouragement bred by the sighting, a faint breeze picked up, speeding the Raindancer toward the unidentified landmass. As it drew nearer they could see that what looked like a line of cliffs rising up out of the sea before them, with a dense row of jagged peaks behind them. It looked like a forbidding shore, but they had few other options to pursue at the moment, so they came inexorably onward.

    Horath posted lookouts ahead and ordered soundings, careful precautions lest a hidden reef or sandbar catch them unawares and damage the ship. As they got closer they could see several islands separate from the main landmass to the south, and since they could detect no easy place to land ahead, they turned in that direction, following the wind.

    Ruath Talasca finally came up from her cabin, dark circles clearly obvious under her eyes as she took in their surroundings and headed directly to the captain. Their conversation was brief and hushed, and when it was over she retreated to the rail alone, clearly subdued.

    The day passed slowly, with the intermittent breeze offering the only relief from the blazing sun. As night approached they drew nearer to one of the larger islands, a rocky mound of barren hills several miles across and at least a dozen miles in length. Horath decided to drop anchor near the island, and send a shore party out in the morning to seek food and water.

    The night passed uneventfully, and with the coming of the dawn Lok, Cal, Delem, Benzan, Dana, and a pair of crewmen crowded into one of the Raindancer’s small boats and started for the island. They reached the rocky shores without incident, and after securing the boat along with the empty water casks started inland to begin their search.

    The island’s surface seemed particularly rugged, with the predominant type of plant being a dry, thorny bush that choked the uneven dells that lay in the gaps between the hills. Delem spotted a creature, a small furry beast that resembled a giant rat, but it vanished so quickly into a hole that he could not be certain of what he’d seen at all.

    “Doesn’t look like we’ll have much luck here,” Benzan said, as they made their way up to the summit of a steep hill. Behind them, they could see the ship sitting at anchor, just a few miles distant.

    “Let’s look in the lows a little more,” Cal suggested. “Maybe we’ll find a spring, or some edible plants.”

    Even as they started out again, however, a harsh screech echoed through the hills around them, followed almost immediately by another.

    “There!” Delem cried, pointing toward the summit of an adjacent hill.

    There was little chance that any of them would miss them. Five creatures launched themselves into the air from nests hidden amidst the boulders around the hilltop, continuing their angry screeches as they winged toward the intruders. The creatures were strange and wondrous, with the heads and upper bodies of eagles combined with the torso and hind legs of a large horse. Powerful wings carried them quickly into the air, rapidly closing the distance to their position.

    “Take cover!” Cal cried out, and they scurried to find sheltered positions amidst the stones. They were still dangerously exposed, however, as the five creatures arrived overhead, and with a final combined cry dove at them.

    “Here we go again,” Benzan said, as he reached for an arrow.

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    Originally posted by Lazybones
    “Here we go again,” Benzan said, as he reached for an arrow.
    That phrase was really superb! It expreasses very well all the character life in the last days, here they go again, always a new enemy to fight... They must be so tired. But I think it will pass some time until they find a resting place...
    I love the story!

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    Book III, Part 2

    Five hippogriffs dove toward the adventurers, exposed atop the crest of a rocky hill.

    But the companions were far from helpless, and their attacks lanced into the diving creatures. Benzan sighted and fired his bow, drawing and releasing the second even before the first had covered half the distance to its target. His first arrow hit the lead creature in the breast, digging deep into its muscled flesh and dragging a screech of pain and fury from it.

    The others, following his lead, targeted the same creature with their weapons. Lok’s arrow, backed by the potent force of the minotaur pirate’s longbow, narrowly missed, as did the bolts from the crossbows of the two crewmen, but Cal’s crossbow scored a hit, the bolt burying into the creature’s wing. It faltered, its momentum carrying it down quickly, but it managed to maintain control of its dive even when Delem sent a pair of magical missiles darting into its body.

    Benzan’s second arrow missed, and then there was no more time; the diving hippogriffs swept down out of the sky and tore into them.

    The tiefling hurled himself desperately aside as the injured leader lashed out at him with its powerful foreclaws. He felt a claw rip into his tunic as he spun away, shredding the cloth but failing to get a grasp on the mithral links of chainmail beneath. As he finished his dive he came up into a smooth crouch, his scimitar slicing out of its scabbard at the ready.

    Of the others, however, only Lok fared equally well in that first strike, holding his ground and absorbing the creature’s momentum with his shield as it tried to find purchase through his heavy armor. Delem tried to duck under the rush of another but felt a hot sting across his back as its claws dug deep into his flesh. It landed a few feet away and spun to come at him again, but Dana quickly moved to block its path to the vulnerable sorcerer.

    Another dove into one of the Raindancer crewmen, catching the hapless sailor as he tried to dodge out of its path. Both claws ravaged the man, and as the hippogriff’s momentum carried it forward it knocked him roughly down the far slope of the hill, coming to rest finally in a bloody tangle at its base.

    The last creature attacked Cal, who for once would not have minded being overlooked. Cal tried to dodge out of its path, but at the last instant once claw latched onto his shoulder and yanked him roughly up into its grasp. Electing not to land at all, the hippogriff instead spread its wings and continued on past the hilltop back up into the air, bearing the struggling gnome with it.

    “One of them’s got Cal!” Lok shouted in warning, but the rest of them were too busy defending themselves to intervene. The genasi tore into his attacker with his axe, cutting a great wound in its chest, but that only seemed to drive the creature on into a frenzy as it tore at him with claws and beak. None of the attacks hit, deflected by Lok’s magical armor and shield, but neither was he able to break free from its surging rush.

    Benzan had a better chance, fighting an already critically wounded adversary, but as he slashed at it he stumbled on some loose stones, and only barely kept his footing. The hippogriff was quick to take advantage of his misfortune, lashing into him with its claws and beak. His agility and armor protected him against the first lashing claw and the stabbing beak, but its final claw scored his unprotected leg, drawing multiple gashes across the limb as he dodged backward from the creature’s grasp.

    Meanwhile, Delem and Dana also had their hands full with their attacker. Dana successfully drew its attention away from Delem, but then had her hands full dodging its powerful attacks. One claw slashed her despite her efforts, trailing a line of blood across her torso. Her own blows seemed to have little effect, but Delem used the distraction to launch a stream of fire into its flank, injuring it.

    The last hippogriff turned on the remaining crewman, who tried to fight off the creature with his mace, but fell before it as it stabbed its long beak into his chest. The man’s screams, combined with the sound of rending flesh, sent a chill down the spines of each of the remaining combatants as they fought desperately to repulse the vicious creatures. With two allies down, and another carried off, and none of the creatures yet dispatched, the situation looked grim for the companions.

    Cal, meanwhile, dangled in the grasp of the hippogriff, high above the rocky ground below as it carried him back toward its lair. He had a good idea of what it intended for him when it arrived, and the thought gave him an additional burst of energy as he reached one of his pockets and drew out a wand. Without hesitating he twisted around and fired a color spray up into the beast’s face. The angle was bad, so the colors didn’t hit the creature’s eyes directly, but the sudden display was enough to get the hippogriff to release him.

    Cal fell, and the ground, eighty feet below, rushed up to meet him.

    Benzan lashed out again at his wounded opponent, and this time the magically keen scimitar cut deep, tearing a wide gash in its throat. Even as the creature fell he was running in the direction that the creature carrying Cal had headed, sheathing his sword and drawing his bow as he went. He saw the burst of color and Cal’s fall, and his breath caught in his chest.

    Lok, meanwhile was trading blows with his adversary. The hippogriff got through his defenses with a powerful slash of its claws, but took in turn a devastating attack that ripped open its chest. Staggered, but still managing to fight on, the creature swarmed over Lok, who held his ground stoically against its attacks.

    Dana and Delem continued their two-pronged attack on their opponent. Dana could have retreated from the hippogriff as it turned back at Delem, but instead she came in at it again, raining a flurry of blows at it that drew it angrily back to her. The move cost her, as it tore into her with beak and claw, nearly dragging her under it to be torn to pieces. She was able to dodge free, although her steps were no longer sure and bright red blood spotted her garments in several places. Delem attacked it again, sending a pair of magic missiles into it, but could not follow up as the last creature, having finished off the Raindancer crewmen, leapt to attack him. Unarmored and virtually unprotected, the sorcerer suddenly felt very vulnerable.

    Cal fell half of the distance to the ground before he recovered enough to utter a word of magic, hastily invoking a spell. The result was immediate, and his fall eased to a gentle drift, like that of a falling feather.

    He landed just in time to see the hippogriff he’d stunned wheel around and dive at him again.

    Lok finally finished off his adversary with a defiant roar, and immediately charged to the aid of the hard-pressed Dana and Delem. Delem had drawn his wand of sleep, and only narrowly dodged out of the way as the onrushing hippogriff collapsed where he had been standing only moments before. Dana, meanwhile, continued her retreat, drawing her adversary after her. She saw Lok coming and angled toward him, but before she could reach him the hippogriff caught up to her.

    She tried to twist away, but her considerable skill could not save her as the creature pounced upon her.

    Cal cast another spell as the hippogriff dove right for him, but the creature shook off the whispered lull of the magical sleep. It was not able to shake off the long arrow that slammed into its chest, however, or the burning pain of the acid that immediately began to ravage its flesh. Screeching in anger and pain, the creature tried to veer off and retreat, but barely managed two beats of its powerful wings before another arrow slammed deep into its body. Staggered, the creature lurched drunkenly through the air for another few yards, then plummeted to the hard ground below.

    Lok charged full-on into the hippogriff that was tearing at Dana, slamming his shield into its chest and bodily forcing it back from the bleeding and unconscious monk. It screeched in anger and tore at him, but its attacks were unable to penetrate the genasi’s defenses. Lok slammed it again, lifting the front of its body off of the ground with brute strength, and then ripped his axe through its belly. The creature screamed as Lok pushed it over into a thrashing heap, finishing it with one more blow to its throat from his deadly axe.

    Delem was already crouched over Dana’s bleeding form, focusing the extra mental effort to summon a spell of healing. Luckily, Lok had reached her just in time to keep her from being torn apart by the hippogriff, but it had only been a matter of seconds. The two, fighter and sorcerer, shared a sigh of relief as the young woman stirred, and opened her eyes.

    “Thanks,” she said, gingerly getting up. She closed her eyes and whispered the words of an invocation to Selûne, adding her own healing power to further restore her. The spell took a few seconds longer than normal, and some additional concentration, but finally the blue glow of healing suffused her battered frame. That finished, she took out her healing wand.

    “What about the sailors?” she asked.

    Lok, who’d seen what was left of the two men, shook his head.

    “A close one,” Delem commented, as Dana used her wand to treat his injuries.

    “We got complacent,” Benzan growled, as he and Cal came up and rejoined them, both somewhat the worse for wear from their encounters with the hippogriffs. “And careless. No tactics to speak of, and we let those things come at us from all sides, and take out the weaker fighters.”

    “They came at us from above,” Delem protested. “There really wasn’t anything more we could have done.”

    “Tell that to Jerim and Corwin,” Benzan snapped, gesturing toward the ravaged corpses of the two sailors.

    “This isn’t accomplishing anything,” Cal said. “Let’s get back to the ship. We’ll take the bodies of the sailors for a proper burial.”

    Their mood darkened, the five of them headed quickly back toward the waiting Raindancer.

  10. #10
    Benzans placing in these polls is solid _proof_ that Tieflings should receive a bonus to Charisma, not a penalty. I voted for Delem, mostly because I like the way you describe his various spells, with the way they are all somehow connected to Fire. As usual, great work, and I look forward to reading more.

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