WOC - BardsTale Second Dry Season

Second Dry Season and Bad Guys

Dire Bear and Party:
We were approached by a representative of a noble house, and he asked us to escort and assist their party's attempt to track down and kill the giant bear that had been ravaging the countryside along the river north of Vivik. Not knowing what was often done among the nobles and that I should be bargaining, I quickly agreed to help them, since we were going to do just that ourselves and this way we could also gain favor with that house. It turned out to be the Baroness of Clari, discredited and alone, trying to regain her reputation and status. With some trepidation, we met with her in Vivik and headed out. It turned out she did recognize us from Fort LeNoir, but she didn't seem to care about that anymore.
We headed north through the raided area, looking for tracks, searching with my hawk, and asking any we met. We eventually found their tracks and began to follow. They were 4 or so days ahead of us and moving slowly as they sought out victims, and we were closing fast. At one point, as we tracked them, Gorlon, Cue, and the Baroness fell into a hidden pit. A major fight ensued as we were attacked by half a dozen giant spiders and some kind of spider-men who could suddenly throw webs over large areas. We managed to kill both spider-men and 4 of the spiders, but Gorlon had been paralyzed by spider venom and required magical aid and bedrest. Several other of the party were likewise poisoned or harmed, but not nearly as much as Gorlon. We rested a day and a night, which was sufficient to get him moving again, and then continued tracking the bear. They were clearly using a Pass Without Trace Spell to hide their tracks, but with a detect magic we could barely manage to follow. Fortunately, they didn't seem to be trying too hard to cover their tracks. Another night's healing brought Gorlon almost up to normal strength again.
The next day, as we were leaving a copse of trees, we saw them ahead of us, when they were supposed to be 2 days ahead yet. They were camped and totally unprepared, with no scouts or guards on watch. We estimated about 10 goblins, the bear, and 3 other smaller animals. We quickly formed a plan. Thalen and I walked into the open, "spotted" them, and then turned and fled back into the woods. We then waited in ambush, ready to do all we could to stop that bear from ripping us all apart. Rather than charging after us, they split into two groups and circled around to hit us from two directions. At around 100 feet, I entangled the smaller group, stopping most of them, and combat began. A second entangle on the larger group stopped most of them also, but the bear plowed right through it. To our surprise (why when we knew they were casting Pass Without Trace?) one goblin was a druid who changed into an eagle and rode on the bear's back as it charged. As the fighters shot at the bear, Cue tried to disable their druid with by summoning a swarm of rats, but it only chased him off to a nearby tree. Gur and the Baroness fought and killed a giant badger and a goblin leader from the smaller group on one flank while most others focused on the bear and druid. The bear was magically held after it had attacked John once, half-killing him in a few seconds' rampage. Medius, John, and Gorlon started hacking at the defenseless body before it could move again, while Thalen and I refocused on the druid, who had now entangled us. He flew off again, but only circled around to the original direction and regathered the ones as they escaped the original entangles. Still, we had time to kill the bear just before the hold spell ended.
Refocusing on the druids group, Medius, the Baroness and I charged around the entangled areas while John and Gorlon, still entangled, shot their bows at the druid. Gur charged through the middle and attacked two more giant badgers. I entangled them all again, and got the druid this time. One badger split off to battle the Baroness, while John was engulfed in a flaming sphere. Battle continued for a bit, but the druid eventually dropped from one last arrow and their remaining forces fled. Badly wounded ourselves, we let the last of them go. Both badgers escaped, badly wounded, along with 2 goblins and one goblin leader who barely managed to get away. Rats, I wanted to get him also. We'd achieved our goal, though, and so we celebrated even while we bandaged our own wounds. John and Gur were both badly hurt, and we were all out of spells.

The Shorewood:
From Clari we travelled north to Mons. There we learned the Duke was at the new fort he was constructing. We got directions and headed out as guided. We met a patrol who seemed to be hiding something, but went on. The next village we came to had been burned down and the people carried off. We tracked them, fairly easy to do since they had about 8 bad guys and over a dozen prisoners. As we were closing in on them, they separated, 2 leading the prisoners while the rest went ahead. We caught up and attacked. The two fled wounded, and the villagers were rescued, unchained and sent home. Tracking a few more hours led us to a circular encampment with goblin heads poking over the walls. Darius and Gorlon circled around and found an open face to the palisade and some goblins clearly in sight. We decided to shoot a few, then back into the woods and lure them out. Our initial shots dropped one goblin, and Gorlon's second shot dropped another. at this point Darius decided they were all fairly weak and entered the fort rather than retreating. Goblins much more powerful then the sentries stepped out, the party charged in to support us, and a real battle ensued. Darius dropped, while Gorlon, Cue, Gur, and Thalen were all seriously hurt, but we managed to kill all of their leaders. Most of the sentries, who had stayed back shooting bows, managed to flee. We found no humans here, nor any signs of any. We are confused as to what this place was intended for, other than an outpost holding a dozen troops. Where were the prisoners bound if not here? If here, then onto where? Or was this the first attempt to take villagers prisoner? Doubtful, as we heard of disturbances here starting about a year ago. We found some papers incriminating the Duke of Mons as working together with the goblins to kill his own people!!!!! We'll need to verify this, but who could imagine?
Well, it seems the patrol we met before, led by Sir John Carter, has been tracking us since we met them. They found us outside the Duke's new fort and asked for a conference. They had real doubts about local goings-on also, but didn't know where to began. He now looks to us for guidance. They let us know that the letters, in the duke's name and with his seal, were not in his handwriting. Furthermore, his "good friend" is living in the castle keep, while the duke lives in a small building we feel is more like a prison cell. We learned about a strange double ceremony, done weekly, that has no visible effect, but everyone there goes to one or the other. The soldiers go to one, which we now believe gives them the illusion of being human, while the other, which the common workers and road-patrols go to, seems to suppress doubts, perhaps charm the recipients. Or lets them understand goblin, since the goblins we met couldn't speak our Common. I'll bet that's it, the real duke lights the fire, which gives his racial appearance (human) to the participants, and the evil leader lights the fire for the workers, which gives his language ability (goblin, undercommon?) to the participants. Perhaps it also adds to the illusion effect, but we also saw those "humans" revert into goblins after dying and we haven't been to the ceremony. Also, there is a double circle of monoliths near the fort which radiates a strong but passive enchantment aura. Something made Cuethbert feel unwelcome when he stood among the stones. Shortly after he resisted the magic from the stones, the wall guards were doubled. Hmmm. Finally, the fort has no torches or fires except to cook with; it appears the guards on the walls can see in the dark.
I am thinking that we have 3 missions to do here, but in which order I don't know. We need to rescue/kidnap the duke, and get him into friendly hands so he can raise his own people to fight these guys. We need to kill the "duke's friend" and other leaders here at the fort. We need to rescue the enslaved workers at the nearby stone quarry. but which first, and how?

Darius wanted to look around the monolith area during daylight when we could see it better. He found a trapdoor down into the ground and heard movement behind it. Deciding that the miners and the real Duke were probably charmed and would resist our attempts to free them, and with the discovery of the trapdoor, the decision was made. We gathered the party together around midnight, pulled up the trapdoor, and went in. Sir John Carter and troops then attacked the wall, shooting a few goblins and backing away again. Underground, we found ourselves in a passageway leading into the fort or under the monolith. The monolith was closer and probably smaller, and we thought we heard noise from that direction. In we went. A nasty battle ensued with the Duke's friend, who turned out to be a mage, a goblin fighter, some zombies and some low level cultist clerics. Gorlon was badly wounded, but we overcame and slew them all. Wow, the main target was down, and we'd hardly begun. We turned around the went towards the keep. We entered a jail area, but it was empty except for one room of zombies. We took some stairs up and entered the main room on the first floor. 6 ghouls began paralyzing us and carrying us away. Darius, Razar, and Gur were all paralyzed, but we finally managed to get out of the doorway and started doing damage back. Lucky for us, the ghouls did start carrying away bodies, leaving fewer and fewer to fight. There must have been some magic on them; they resisted 2 attempts to turn them. Eventually we won the battle, barred the front door to the keep, and waited for the paralyzation to fade. 10 minutes later, with people banging on the doors, we continued our search of the first level, finding no one else there. On the second level, we found another room full of zombies and destroyed them. Realizing the pounding on the door was probably breaking through soon, we rushed up to the third floor, but we were in a dead end area with no access to the towers, so back down to the second level, over to a tower, and up to the roof. Keeping low, we went above the door and threw 14 alchemist fires down on the goblins below, killing many of those pounding on the front door, but now seeing that it was just about ready to give way. We got into a short battle with the "lady friend" on the tower, and did some small damage to her: one arrow, a spike growth on her tower, and then a flaming sphere. She backed away, but the spikes killed more goblin archers arriving up there. She escaped by walking on their dead bodies back to the stairs.
It was clear that it was time to go if we didn't want to fight the rest of the goblin forces all at once. Razar, being the fastest, stayed behind a bit as we all ran back to the tunnel. Razar caught up with us and we exited out by the monolith again. We made an effort to attack the tower again, killing three goblins on a wall, but were seen as we approached the "lady friend's" tower. Being mostly healed but out of spells, we decided to leave and return again later.

We rested up and decided to follow a quarry's load into the back area while invisible, then zip into the lady's tower. All went surprisingly smooth and we entered. We shut the door just as 4 zombies attacked. They died, dealing out minor damage, and we proceeded to explore upwards. The first floor was a meeting room, the second a hospital, the third the lady's personal quarters, the roof had an armory. Other than goblins burned by alchemists fires in the hospital (who were dispatched), the place was empty. Darius finally learned what his dagger did when he stabbed a dead one with it and it became a zombie. The lady had either stepped out before we got here or fled upward and climbed down. Since everything was still quiet, we assumed we'd just missed her. We returned to the first floor, recast invisible, and were about to search the keep for her when we saw her coming. With John and Darius behind the door, the rest still invisible and in the middle of the room, she pushed open the door. She spoke a command word to the zombies (now dead) and when none answered, she hesitated then fled. All but John and Darius moved outside the tower, still invisible. She sent 6 goblins into the tower. Our zombie fought them, and John and Darius moved up to the second floor. We killed the first 5 to come up, some swinging, some bashing, but only one did damage before dying. More goblins came off the walls and died, but then everyone waited while the sleeping shift was awakened. The little courtyard filled with goblins, standing around the door and ringing the tower with crossbows. More ran up to the top of the keep. John and Darius realized it was just a matter of time and they ran to the top, barring doors behind them. A rope trick covered by fog allowed them to get down and we ran for the wall tower to get up and escape. We did so, and they did not pursue us. Several party members were lamenting that John Carter would have been a great help to us had he been there, and while others rested, Gorlon and Darius tracked him down and brought him back.

With John Carter and his men, we prepared a plan to attack the fort. I drank a potion of invisibility and then became an eagle. On top of a tower, I cast Spike Growth in front of the barracks buildings, then placed a Flaming Sphere over the door of each. The flames were the signal for others to attack. The rest of the party shot/spelled the wall guards, then climbed up and began meleeing down the walls. Sir John started behind the keep and moved quickly around the castle, we spent more time shooting and took longer to get moving. A few fireballs finished off all the guards in the inner area barracks. the darken spells came down, and they slowed us at first, but we found a Sunrod cancelled them. At one point I fogged in a tower to cancel its darkness, which is only important in that the majority of the battle ended up taking place in that tower.

We advanced along the walls for awhile until waves of goblins began to arrive behind us in an attempt to surround. Darkness now covered the towers Sir John had cleared earlier. We retreated back into the fogged in tower, except Medius and Gur who held one adjacent tower, and we all fought as they arrived from four directions. The piles of goblins mounted as more and more died, but they kept coming. Finally the female cleric arrived, cast some buff spells, then entered the fray. Darius was holding the top of the stairs and received her attention. She cast spell after spell further hindering and damaging him before finally zapping him with some terrible curse, stealing the last life from his body. Being badly hurt by John, she then tried to flee, but took a hit from Gorlon before Razar arrived and took her down. Rarely have I seen the calm, steady Razar so enraged, as if he were channelling the rage of his slain friend, Darius. With their last leader visibly dead (we chased her outside the fog) the goblins saw it and broke. The remainder fled the fort. We later tracked them down as they regathered, went to some rafts on the coast, and set sail south. We hauled out our galley and chased them down and , with Thalen fireballing each raft, we easily finished off the survivors. The goblins guarding the miners, lumberjacks, etc. were unaware of the battle. They were all ambushed and slain on their next visits to the fort, whether bringing supplies or for the next ceremony. It is over!

Still, the damage has been done. The Duke was released, but while frail from deprivation, he will survive. Unfortunately, he seems to have suffered mentally, and only long term care will determine whether he will again be fit to rule or not. Sir John has command for now and I have agreed to stay around and help rebuild a bit while the rest of the party takes Darius' body back for resurrection, if such is possible. I can return quickly in eagle form when finished, but it seems likely my help will be needed here for a few weeks at minimum. By then the rainy season will have settled in again.

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