Aphonion Tales: Adventures in the Spice Lands and the War in Hanal, a tween and teen D&D game (edited notes, posts Tuesdays, most recent 1/24/23)

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 49 (November 27, 2022)

9 Kas (just after midnight)
They proceed out of the ruined drowan city via the right-most, southernly passage. Iados is scouting about 100 feet ahead of the group. He notices that it is rapidly getting cold. He just keeps flying onwards, and notices that it's starting to get darker, even with his darkvision.

A voice whispers in his ear. "Almost my cousin." He has the feeling of the hairs on the back of his neck standing up. Iados quickly looks around, as he hears "Interesting, interesting," in his other ear, but he can't see anything. "I do think I'll ride along."

He continues on--nothing seems to be happening, except the darkness is accompanying him.

A while later, Iados comes back to the group, accompanied by more darkness. As he does, he says that he came into a cavern with what appears to be another ruined drow settlement, though much smaller, with purple crystals in the ceiling providing light. Near the entrance is a burst barricade with hundreds of skeletons near it.

"It sounds like the enemy fought their way through here as well; perhaps we can keep going?" says Sister Agnes.

With no disagreement, they push forward rapidly and enter the cavern, with many dead bodies lying around the hastily erected barricades. Most of the bodies are human, but some are drowan.

About halfway through the cavern, Elyn hears a voice, likely amplified by magic, in undercommon: "Stand firm, in the name of House Aleval. Are you responsible for this?"

Elyn calls back, "No. This was the work of the Hanalian army."

"A human army dared? We are only now investigating the western passage, from which there has been silence."

"I hate to be the bearer of bad news," says Noah. "But you know how there was supposed to be a city back there? It's been ruined, and it's beginning to be occupied by Hanalian royal guards."

There's a flash, and about five feet ahead of them, a male drow fades into visibility. A moment later, two figures like drowan spider crossbreeds appear on either side of him. "I am Ilvaran. Second Boy of House Aleval in the City of Gualadur. You say that humans dare inhabit the cavern?"

"I'm sorry, but we stumbled upon here and don't mean any harm," says Iados.

"You are in flight. How many are the force behind you?"

"About 120."

After glancing at the drider to the side, which shakes its head no, the drow says, "We cannot defeat a force that size. We are only scouts. Continue along the main passage, and watch the left hand wall. After about three days travel, if you watch carefully, you will find a secret passage that will lead to the surface." They then disappear rapidly.

The group is approaching exhaustion, but they decide to press on for some hours more before resting. After another six hours of travel through what was at one time a major route, passing more skeletons here and there, including drow, lizards, occasional Hanalians, and one skeleton they cannot identify though it is humanoid, they find a side cave with some places to sleep and a source of water. They pitch a hasty camp, and Elyn does her best to conceal them. Sister Agnes falls directly to sleep, while the others take watches--the elves each watch half of the rest, while everyone else except Sister Agnes takes one 2 hour watch. The rest passes uneventfully, and they feel greatly recovered. At this point, everyone is fine except for Sister Agnes, who is still at one level of fatigue.

10 Kas approximately

They travel for about 24 hours, until they are all again reaching exhaustion. They pull in to another wayfarers' cave. By this point, they are passing broken down carts, the bones of horses, and other signs that whatever passed through was both a large group and just kept on going.

Another "night" passes peacefully.

11 Kas approximately

They press on, slowing down after another day's worth of travel so they can search for the secret passage on the left-hand wall. Elyn notices a group of stalactites that are capable of moving. She works them around, and opens a much smaller passage that heads up. They get inside and then make camp, and Ravokris spends some time figuring out how to jam the mechanism of the secret door. The mechanism feels similar to what an elf might use, though it's clearly not elven work--at least not his type of elves. He jams it, though not so well that it would resist a sustained assault.

In the middle of their rest, while Ravokris and Elyn are both up during the changeover, Elyn observes what looks like a bit of water running into the camp down the center of the passage. Elyn wakes everyone up, concerned about the water. The runnel of water has just run onto one of the resting uruk's feet. Ravokris notes that the "water" has a vaguely reddish tint.

The uruk howls, wakes, and leaps up, while the "water" is still on his foot and crawling up his leg.

Ravokris also notices a rivulet of water on the ceiling about to drip down towards him. He dodges to the side and shouts for everyone to beware the ceiling because "there's bad water up there!"

Elyn desperately tries to figure out what this is, figuring it's some relative of the jelly or ooze family, but unable to identify it. It does seem more intentional or intelligent that most oozes. She watches the uruk that is being climbed carefully.

Noah takes out a hand axe, and lobs it at the water on the ceiling, missing by a wide margin, and follows it with another, which sinks into the water, and then falls back to the earth, with no apparent effect.

Sister Agnes casts banishment, but with no effect (although it was a valid target--it just saved).

Ravokris blasts it with Agannazar's scorcher, scorching the one on the uruk. It fails to dodge, and he inflicts 26 hp of damage, evaporating some of it but it's still there.

The uruk whose leg is being climbed bellows in pain and hacks at it with his sword. The other uruks also start chopping at his leg. One hits, with the blade passing through the watery substance and into his flesh.

Abruptly, a mass of water, like a pool, comes rushing along the tendril of water on the floor and engulfs the uruk. After a moment, there is nothing but bones left, suspended in the jelly like substance. The other creature, however, recognizes that Ravokris has hurt the uruk and mentally lashes him and everyone else except Iados with a psionic blast. Noah saves, as does one uruk, and the rest all take 21 points of mental force damage and are knocked prone for 1d4 rounds.

Iados shoots one with his short bow, but he can't tell if it's doing any damage. Elyn begins crawling away, unable to figure out if she can harm these things.

Noah starts raging and says, "Hey gross slime monster, I'm making lots of noise and swinging this big axe at you." He tries to cut the one suspended from the ceiling off the ceiling. He hits solidly, and the blade sinks into its watery form; he rolls 12 damage, and some water actually flies away with the axe blade, though perhaps not as much as he would have hoped. His second blow hits even harder, dealing 17 damage.

Sister Agnes casts mass healing word, restoring 10 hp to all of her allies. She considers casting an offensive spell at the creatures to try to defeat them, but she isn't sure they aren't intelligent living creatures. Deciding that her oath to never harm a person, even to save her life or those of her friends, outweighs the risk that the creatures will kill them, she channels divine energy at it, hoping without expectation to turn it, but having no effect at all.

Ravokris throws another scorcher at the same target, dealing 24 damage. The uruk form that it had engulfed lets out an agonized bellow, despite already having broken down into bones.

One of the uruks keeps hacking at his former cousin, and then the other turns to Noah and says, "What now?"

"Maybe run?"

"Wounded?"

"Good point. Grab them, then let's go."

Sister Agnes calls out, "Na-Strom! It's more important that the resonator make it out than we do."

Noah gives commands for one of the uruks to carry Ravokris, while the other carries the resonator with him. Sister Agnes and Elyn remain lying on the ground.

Another psionic blast erupts up the corridor from the other one, though the resonator, two uruks, Noah, and Ravokris are out of range. Sister Agnes and Elyn are caught in the blast, and Sister Agnes and Elyn both take 30 points of damage. The other surges at Sister Agnes, and engulfs her.

Elyn is shouting, "Save yourselves! Run, and get the resonator out of here! I love you all! Save the world without me!"

Iados flees, scattering ball bearings behind him as he runs.

All of a sudden, Sister Agnes disintegrates within the entity. The other two keep pounding on Elyn as the others flee.

The survivors of the group run up the tunnel until they are exhausted. They have lost their cleric and their ranger, and they just keep running, terrified. At last, they exit into a snow-covered, ruined village. There are signs that it has been recently bombarded, but surviving villagers emerge from the ruins as they hit the surface.

[End Session 49]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
Session 50 (January 8, 2023)

11 Kas (cont'd)
So as they catch their breath, a young, middle aged woman, maybe late thirties or so emerges from the ruins, looks them over, and says, "So, what are you lot? And why do you have that thing with you?"

"Given that you just got bombarded, I presume you're not on the side of the houses of the Green."

"We are common folk. The matters of the houses of the Green and such don't concern us very much."

"Put simply, we are adventurers," continues Noah. "We're working for the forces of the Inquisition and Queen-Empress Anastasia. We've just recovered a quite powerful artifact from the clutches of the enemy, and we're currently working to reunite with our forces, so we can begin plans for a large scale incursion into enemy territory. I apologize for my lack of finesse. We just got out of a very difficult situation where we lost some some good people."

"I'm sorry for your losses. Let me tend to your wounds. I'm a midwife and a healer."

"That would be excellent."

She makes her way around, basically bandaging them up and putting on poultices. Their wounds respond to this much more than they ought to from just conventional bandages, disinfectants, and herbs, and she mutters under her breath as she tends each of them.

Meanwhile, though they do not know this, the army following them has now passed by the secret passage, and are headed along the underground passage continuing southwest, and will continue along through the Underdark until they're finally slaughtered by the drow.

While the midwife tends their wounds, a tall, slim figure that appears human approaches the group from the ruins. "My name is Merritt Aster. I prefer an honorific, so you can call me Mx. Aster for the time being. We don't get newcomers very often." They have ash-blonde hair, pale skin, and green eyes, and they are dressed in a somewhat proper fashion for a commoner.

"We did just come up from the Underdark."

"Probably not the best idea to go down there in the first place, but live and lit live," comments Mx. Aster.

"There is a very powerful thing that we are currently trying to get back to our army."

An old man with a crooked back says, "He says he came out of the Underdark. You came out of the old tunnel, then? Nothing's come out of that tunnel alive since I was a boy. You must be powerful."

"I like to think our group is relatively experienced."

"And you have to get to the border. Now, you've got a mage, that's good."

"I think that if you're willing to help us, we're currently trying to return to Dwarf Mountain and also determine what to do with the artifact."

The old man turns to the midwife. "Goodie Trudie, you need to tell him that's insane.

"Well, it certainly is touched by the moons, but nonetheless they may not be wrong," responds Trudie. "So what is this thing? It seems to be some sort of torture device."

"Basically, as long as you don't put a person or corpse in it, we think it doesn't do evil things."

"You hope it doesn't do evil things," mutters Mx. Aster.

"Necromancy, then," comments Trudie.

"My current running theory is that it absorbs the life energy of a person and transforms it into usable magical energy."

"You're not wrong, then, that this cannot fall into the hands of..." Trudie gestures vaguely in the direction of the capital. "But the thought that the six of you would carry this device all the way to Dwarf Mountain, past the armies in between..."

"The good news is that one of the armies is on our side."

"Lad, in a war like this, no army is on anyone's side. They're just forces of destruction."

"Look, how many people do you have here who need to get to a safe haven?"

"We have about 30 survivors."

"I don't suppose any of you are divine spell casters? We need to make a sending to our allies."

"Who would you be trying to reach?"

"If we could signal one of the elven vollers..."

"They blew up our village," says the old man.

"Wait. The elven vollers were the ones that did this?"

"Yes. Some of the villagers set up some weird thing up at the north end of the village, and after the one of those crystal ship passed overhead, it shot purple rays down and blasted it and the village with kind of ... what's that long word that means they didn't care who they were hitting?"

"It was indiscriminate, is what he's saying," explains Trudie. "There might have been reasons why they might have needed to deal with that altar."

"If it's anything like the altars that I've encountered during my experience adventuring, it needed to be destroyed. As you might imagine, the altars are part of a system erected by a cult."

"So would the elves assist you if you could contact them?"

"I believe so. At the very least, I am certain that they would think that they would definitely prefer the idea that the resonator--the artifact-- was in their hands rather than anyone else's."

"If that thing is connected to the same cult, if any of the elven vollers pass over it, they'll likely blast it and anyone with it."

"And you, lad," says Trudie, as she points at Iados. "Are you a tiefling who happens to have wings?"

"Indeed."

"So you're not a bound devil, or the like."

"No."

"What if you flew up to one of the vollers? Could you do that?"

"Indeed I could."

"Would they allow him to approach?"

"I think that if he approached they would probably attempt to shoot him down," says Noah.

"Not just attempt," says the old man, glancing around the ruins of the village.

"If you need a divine caster," Trudie says, "There is an abbey of the Weeping Woman, not terribly far from here. I'm known to them. They sometimes ask me to handle difficult births anywhere in this area."

"That could be a good move," says Noah. "To be quite frank, I think that that currently is your best option as well. And in the best case, we can get your survivors out by getting them on board the voller. I think that our best bet is probably to make for that abbey."

The survivors of the village decide to go with them to the abbey. They gather up what supplies they have, on their surviving mules, and a wagon for the device.

Trudie mounts up on a riding horse that is surprisingly nice for a peasant to have. "I was out of the village, attending to a difficult birth, when the bombardment happened. It's the only reason I survived when our family home and the forge did not."

They depart south towards the abbey. The group forms a tight group around the resonator, while Trudie positions the surviving villagers well clear of the resonator on its right-hand side, and rides herself a little bit further out from the villagers, almost like a picket or outrider.

The first day of travel is uneventful, though through the biting wind and the snow.

When they make camp, they mount two sets of guards. The resonator is some three hundred yards from the camp of the villagers, with a couple of guards there. They then post a separate set of guards around the sleeping people. In the middle of the night, Noah and an uruk are on watch at the resonator. The first warning of a problem is a horrible scream from one of the mules. The mule is being carried away by a large winged shape. Two more are still circling with it, and they fly away to the east. They were definitely animals, not dragons, but the group could not recognize them. The rest of the night passes peacefully, although fretfully. In the morning, the villagers quickly divide up the goods that were carried by that mule, and they head on.

12 Kas
The next day passes uneventfully, as they pass a number of farms that appear abandoned and a few that are locked up as tight as a drum. They also pass through a small, abandoned thorp.

The night passes uneventfully, except that Mx. Aster reveals that they are a shapechanger, showing their true form--a much less well defined form, about the same build and size, but with entirely blank white eyes, with no pupil or iris visible at--to Noah.

13 Kas
Another day passes.

In the early hours of the morning, during the second watch, four large figures stride out of the darkness and stop outside the perimeter. A fifth, leading along something that looks like a small elephant piled high with parcels, stops. And they look at the group. The figures are roughly nine-feet tall, in armor, but without weapons drawn. The fifth one is somewhat larger, but still much larger than any human.

Iados approaches, and the closest waves at him.

"Hello, friends," says Iados. "I'm sorry--do you speak common?"

The figures shake their heads, "No."

"Do you speak any languages?"

They open their mouths and show no tongues.

"Oh, I'm sorry. What are you doing?"

They gesture at the parcels, and Iados concludes that it's mail of a sort, before realizing that they are merchants. Iados invites them in.

They lay out a variety of goods--mostly food, with jerked beef and pemican, along with some bundles of not-well-preserved healing herbs. Iados buys some jerked beef and pemican, and Trudie--who recognizes the figures as from one of the civilized ogre tribes up in the hill, whose tongues are cut out by the Empire of Hanal to keep them disorganized, while not killing them because they're viewed as potentially useful--buys the healing herbs, along with some of the cheapest foodstuffs they have to provide to the villagers.

She tells them, "I'd recommend that you head back to your village. There's not good markets now, with the armies about and the war, and there's a danger you'll be pressed into service. Go home to your wives, stay safe."

The ogres nod in understanding, and after finishing the deals, they quickly pack up and head back towards the hills.

14 Kas
After a half day of travel, they come up on a large abbey. It has significant fields, and some fortifications--not really fortified, but walls and defenses that would keep out bandits or the like, and open gates, though the snow has been moved out of the way so the gates can be sealed.

A knight stands outside the abbey gate, keeping guard. He tenses as he sees the group approaching, but then relaxes once he recognizes the locals. He asks, with worry in his voice, "I hope you're not all that's left of the village?"

Trudie grimly responds, "You can hope that, but your hopes will not be granted."

"Well. I know the Mother Abbess will want to welcome you. I've managed to draw a few other lyans in to help guard the abbey."

"That thing. It needs to be within the walls, but not near any people."

"I can sense it... trying to reach out, trying to do something..." He rings a bell. Another knight, this one not fully armored, emerges, and he orders that knight to bring the resonator in and position it next to one of the exterior walls, and then to take them to the Abbess.

The Abbess greets Trudie.

"Our village was destroyed by the elven vollers, but they had some reason."

"I am na-Strom Noah of the Stromate of Arrendale. I request your most capable cleric for use of a sending. I'm willing to pay for confidential information to be sent to to the right hands."

The Abbess replies, "The servants of the Weeping Woman do not request payment."

Trudie scoffs. "Oh, some noble is willing to offer you money. Take it, you can give it to the poor, or something."

The Abbess smiles. "There is that. Very well." She calls for an elderly anchorite from deep in the abbey.

The anchorite sends the message Noah drafted to the Inquisitor General, who she met when they were both much younger: "Resonator obtained. Suffered minor casualties. Strike team weakened. Currently at Abbey of [ ]. Requesting voller to recover resonator or guidance. Refugees with us. Plan accordingly."

She then writes in chalk on a slate the response, performing automatic writing, but refusing to speak at all: "Enemy massive air superiority. 15 iron legions between Abbey and Mountain. Leave refugees with Abbey. Flee South, skirt army. Darkness keep you and the dead."

Noah says, "I think that our best plan, and I mean for our group as well as for your people, is for the refugees to stay in the Abbey and for the rest of us to attempt to travel with the resonator to Dwarf Mountain, avoiding the armies to the best of our ability. I would greatly appreciate it if either of you were willing to work with our our group to get the resonator to Dwarf Mountain. Doing so would be a major victory for the forces of good, as it would allow us to better both understand and destroy it. I understand that you two have connections to this community, and so, if you would rather stay here and protect the Abbey, I would understand that."

"There's nothing left for me in that village anymore, or with those people," says Mx. Aster. "Most of them never liked me, and honestly trying to be a human is really freaking boring. I think I'd be happy to go with you."

Trudie says, "The best thing that we can do for the villagers is to get this resonator far away from them."

"Look, I'm certain that there's a bunch of of important rules that say I'm not supposed to tell you people about this," continues Noah. "I'm gonna be frank with you. The conflict here has a decent risk of if we--and by we I mean the entire Inquisition and expeditionary force-- if we fail, resulting in the destruction of the world as we know it." He begins explaining what they know about the Lady of the Pale Bone and the gods.

The Abbess gestured all of the less senior nuns away when Noah mentioned the Goddess of the Pale Bone.

Trudie mostly just listens, but she will occasionally interject to correct errors in what Noah is saying. It seems strange to the rest of the group, but Trudie seems very familiar with what they are talking about--even more so than the Abbess.

Noah looks at her in confusion. "I don't mind the corrections, but I'm a little concerned by how much you know about this..."

"Oh, my people have been taking care of threats like that since... how to phrase this... since before these threats came to the attention of either the Light or the Dark."

The Abbess rushes to her feet and sends the anchorite back to her cell.

"Your people..." asks Noah. "Do you have halfling ancestry?"

"No."

"Sorry, it just seemed worth the guess."

"I just mean villagers who know about these things and take care of these problems as they arise. There's more that villagers know than you nobles will ever realize."

"I'm well aware, and I'm trying to... This isn't the time, but I've considered campaigning in the court for a public education system. I think that letting community figures spread knowledge would be an excellent step. Like the Church is already much better at communication than a lot of our institutions, and so I think that connecting education more with the church, combined with the idea that everyone has a right to learn more than just the skill they're apprenticed, could be really useful."

He has the Abbess's full attention. "You're an interesting young man. Hopefully, there'll be a court for you to advocate in. I will have that thing covered with a lead blanket."

"That is almost certainly for the best, for multiple reasons."

"It's constantly reaching out. I suppose that's something that the more magically attuned of you would definitely realize if someone like me did. We run the risk of being blasted because it's here. I've been trying to figure out the patrol pattern the two elven vollers take, but I can't do it. They never come close to one another, which is fortunate, I think."

"Alright. We'll set out in the morning," says Noah definitively, which is just as well: the abbey will shelter the village's people gladly, but they will not allow that thing to stay here more than one night, even with a lead blanket.

"Take the blanket when you go. It mutes it, it diminishes its power, but even lead does not eliminate it."

"While I'm here, Mother Abbess, may I visit with my straw-for-brains daughter-in-law and my grandchild?" asks Trudie.

"Yes, of course."

Mx. Aster says in shock, "Your straw-for-brain daughter-in-law?"

"Let's be clear. It was not for her mind that my son married her. To be honest, I don't think he intended to marry her at all until things happened, but certainly not for her mind."

She visits them--they had already fled to the abbey before the bombardment-- and they are there, and clothed and warm, which is all that can really be hoped for at the moment. There are some others from the village who are here as well. All told, about a third of the village survived. Trudie's daughter-in-law is very glad to see her, in her way, and Trudie is very glad to see her grandchild.

Meanwhile, Noah thinks about the fact that this was a side operation from the main plan of dropping the energy shield around the City of Hanal. He says, "This is the exact same issue that happened last time where I got sidetracked and lots of people died because we weren't focusing on the important stuff. And once again, we decided to go on this whole side thing to get the artifact of doom rather than just focusing on cutting off the bad stuff at its head."

Mx. Aster says, "Look. I'm sure that they probably would not have wanted you to waste even more time talking about this and talking about your regrets, because there's honestly nothing you can do. That's the first thing that you have to learn when you're losing someone or something that you love is that there's nothing you can do. Keep going. Keep going and use the opportunities that they wish they would have had."

"Alright team. We're going to get back to Dwarf Mountain, and then hopefully, we're going straight to where we were going originally." He pauses. "Trudie. Is there anyone in the village who at one point worked in Hanal City?"

"I've likely been into the city more than anyone else in the village, except maybe the old priest, but he's dead. And I I must say, I tried to avoid the City as much as possible. There were unpleasant people there who are not as cooperative as the people out in the countryside."

"If there's one thing that the City was really full of, it was unpleasant people who are good at seeming like really pleasant people."

"No, mostly they were really unpleasant people, who seemed like really unpleasant people, but it's an understandable mistake for something like you to make."

"Yeah, honestly, that's fair. I think that if I wasn't in the position that I am, most of them would have just tried to have me murdered for stepping on their front door."

Eventually, Trudie decides to cast a Divination, asking how they can best meet up with the elven vollers--the plan is for Mx. Aster to then cast an illusion to draw their attention and open communication.

The response to the Divination is: "Any path you take will eventually intersect one of the vollers. To maximize your chance seek the trail of the shad, where they cling the vollers regroup."

Shad are ocean fish, so they plan to head south to the coastline and look for fishing villages to find out where the shad are most dense, and then plan on using Mx. Aster's illusions to try to draw the attention of vollers without them directly seeing the resonator.
[End Session 50]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 51 (January 22, 2023)

15 Kas
They leave the abbey and head south towards the shoreline, expecting it to take about a day to get there. As they travel, Iados is out ahead of the group scouting.

Iados flies back to the group. "There's a large village, which looks like it had over a thousand people, at least two dozen small boats, and two large ships, which are flying green banners."

Noah says, "My guess is that those are occupying the port, keeping the town loyal. I doubt the town itself is more than a stop over point for the navy, but we still can't risk going in with them there. Actually, how many ships have the green banners? Is it just the two large ships, or are the fishing boats flying green banners as well."

"Just the large ones."

"They may not have much public support, then, beyond whatever garrisoning of soldier or guards are here. Still, we should stay clear."

They decide to head east some distance, and then turn south to the shoreline. They plan on traveling about three miles to the east before approaching the shore. They narrowly avoid running into a patrol--ten men and a sergeant, armed with crossbows and wearing breastplates, clearly very disciplined. Iados spots them in time, and the group hides beyond a hillock, avoiding them entirely. Noah feels an urge to confront them, trying to gain information, but he is aware that if the patrol doesn't return on schedule, it will stir up more trouble.

As they reach the shore, there are scattered huts--nothing like the village, just a hut here and a hut there, with rowboats and fish drying racks. It's getting on towards nightfall, and they head along the shore, avoiding the two obviously occupied huts and the two empty ones.

They decide to commandeer one of the empty shanties. Once they get inside, it's clear that it's abandoned. There are still pieces of furniture and a few root vegetables stored, but the fire is long cold and the furniture undusted. It has likely been abandoned relatively recently, but no one is coming back to this shack. They eat a cold meal and go to bed without lighting a fire, lest they draw the attention of neighboring villagers.

"Master Iados!" says the uruk on watch with Iados. "We're being surrounded from the water."

"By what?"

"Humanoids but they're not like us. They're scaly."

He quickly rouses everyone.

A female of the species has now come up, with shell necklaces and a short rod of coral.

Iados calls out, "Hello!"

"Who sits in the hut of Old Samuel and his family?"

"We apologize. We're seeking shelter for the night. We did not know that this hut was under protection."

"Pearls he gave us to guard his hut while he fled."

"We mean no harm. We just wanted shelter for the night. Are there empty huts you don't guard?"

"Yes, but be warned: If you are hiding in old Samuel's hut, you are no friend to the marines, and the marines patrol this beach twice a night. Once already they have passed. Here, they will not come, for they know that old Samuel has friends to guard, and we are too many for them."

"How many are they?"

"Each patrol is two hands of men, and the sergeant. Sometimes there is among them a priest. Sometimes there is not. Occasionally, among them there is a mage. Usually there is not."

"We could take them," says Noah. "But again, if we take them, it'll alert them that there's been people in the beach huts."

"Lady," states Trudie, "You are then no friends of these marines, either."

"We share a deity, but we believe they corrupt it."

"You are enemies of the cult that has sprung up."

"Yes. The Lord of Darkness and Deep Water does not support this cult. I have asked." The other merfolk with her--about 15 total--nod their heads respectfully.

"Could we pay you for sheltering here?" asks Noah.

"We need no pay. Old Samuel simply ask us to be certain that when he dared return some day, all of his things would still be here."

"We haven't taken anything, and we don't intend to"

"I think if you are within the hut, they will pass you by as long as you do nothing to draw attention to yourself."

"As a token of our sincerity. Do your people come out at the morning?"

"We are generally nocturnal, but our guards remain awake, of course, day and night."

"I'm willing to leave you my axe as a symbol that we won't take anything."

"Also take this," says Iados, reaching into his bag and taking out some fruit."

"Those are complicated. They're related in some way to the Lady of Chaos."

"Still, surface fruit is surface fruit." She distributes them among her warriors. "We will accept this token, and leave you in peace to sleep."

"Before you go--have you seen the sky ships?"

"There are two of them. They maneuver very carefully so they never encounter each other. We do not know why."

"They are of two groups who dislike each other greatly but are forced to work together against a common threat."

"Logical. The end of their patrol pattern is about a day southeast of here on the beach."

"Thank you. Knowing that is of great use to us."

"They used to pass over the shad fishing village, but have not since the two warships arrived. But be warned. They patrol greatly, so it is not often that they come so far."

"Even so, knowing that will be great use to us."

"They used to on occasion pass over the shad fishing village, but since the ships have arrived they avoid that."

"Is the village nearby the shad fishing village?"

"It is. We had words with them years ago when their nets got too big."

"Thank you for your advice."

"Yes, we truly appreciate your kindness."

"We will return the axe in the morning. It will be wet."

She withdraws into the water with her 15 guards.

The rest of the night passes uneventfully.

16 Kas
Noah retrieves his axe from the merfolk guard in the morning. Trudie leaves a silver piece behind, as a rent of sorts for old Samuel, tucked under some root vegetables where it will not be obvious but will be found when he returns. They head along the beach to the southeast.

As they trot along, they see a small group of sleek, fast ships off shore. They have a single bank of oars in addition to their sails, but no colors. Three boats immediately launch, full of people, about 20 or 25 total, and head to shore.

Noah says, "They're probably not meaning trouble."

"You think?" asks Trudie. "They look like pirates to me."

As they get closer to the shore, Ravokris sees that they have silver seals at the front of the boats. Everyone they can see is human, but on a flyby, Iados can see that those silver seals are some sort of intricate elven pattern. The sailors are clean, neatly dressed, carrying nets, mancatchers, and armed and armored, though lightly because they are sailors. The party starts figuring that these might in fact be slavers.

Suddenly, two banners fly on each of the ships. One is a let of a privateer on behalf of the Queen-Empress. The other is the banner of Region 8 of the Aragoni. "Give yourselves up!" cries the leader, in the lead boat.

Trudie responds by dropping a Flame Strike on the lead boat, sinking the boat entirely and killing most of the people in it, though not the leader.

He hesitates for a moment, as he flounders in the water, then shouts, "That one will be worth more! Take them!"

Noah rushes forward as they land their boat, raging and swinging his axe. The uruks follow in his wake, also charging and hitting. Noah hits twice, badly bloodying two of them but not dropping either. The uruks both hit twice, inflicting additional grievous injuries. None of the slavers from that boat are dead yet, but they're all getting close.

Ravokris envelopes the other boat in a Burning Hands. Two of them are injured, with the other four burned to death.

Iados swoops down and tries to knock some of them into the water while protecting himself. He knocks two of them prone.

Having attacked them while they were simply getting to shore, the group is then able to move faster than them as they try to join the fight. Noah chops at the two he wounded, dropping them.

Ravokris follows his first Burning Hands with a second one, reducing the remaining two in that boat to charred messes.

Iados knocks another two prone, as the other two are standing up.

Trudie casts Hold Person on the leader, but he resists.

The uruks finish hacking their foes to pieces, and one of them also hits another one.

The midshipman on the beach wets himself and dives back into the water and starts swimming back to the ship. The leader signals, and the two ships nearest the shore fire powerbow spreads. 40 steel bolts fly to the shore towards them.

One spray of bolts misses entirely, smashing into trees behind them. The other scatters among the group. Some bolts bounce off of Trudie's armor; one smacks into Ravokris; Iados takes 4 shafts; Noah is also hit by 4; the uruks take 3 and 1. Ravokris was only lightly creased, taking 1 damage. Iados takes 26 damage as he's knocked to the ground. Noah takes less damage than would be expected, because of his resistance.

The other two ships are swinging into position to bring their powerbows to bear.

Noah continues hacking the survivors to pieces. He gets a critical hit, inflicting an appalling 29 damage and splitting a slaver in twain.

Ravokris looks out at the ships, each of which is about 60 feet long. They're positioned out some 200 yards from the beach, where the water is deep enough that there's no risk that they will ground.

Noah shouts, "If you can get behind cover, get behind cover! They're about to fire on all of us!"

Ravokris sprints towards the dunes, throwing himself behind cover. Iados also flees, running over the dunes as well.

Trudie casts another Hold Person, sending the swimming slaver officer down to a dreadful fate as he slowly drowns, unable to swim or even to close his mouth. She then walks calmly back towards the dunes.

The uruk start running for the dunes, hauling the resonator with them.

The powerbows fire again. This time, one misses entirely, one jams and is out of action, and the other two spray across the beach. Noah takes another 4 bolts, and is still only lightly injured. Trudie takes two bolts, for a total of 5 points.

Noah runs over the dunes as well, with no live opponents left on the beach.

For another 7 rounds, a volley of powerbow bolts flies over their heads or slams into the beach. Finally, they give up and move on. After the fight, while they are healing, Ravokris realizes that those were the sigils for Section 8 of the Aragoni - Section 8 should not be operating this far north. They are in breach of their own agreements.

After the ships sail on, they travel out to loot the bodies. They recover 128 silver, plus a gold and silver fish earing that might be magical. Trudie identifies it as a talisman of swimming.
[End Session 51]
 

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