The Final Test
After competing against two other candidate teams and successfully trouncing them in practical tests of combat skill, tactics, and strategy, the party was chosen to take the final test: Combat Theory. A fifth member, Alkar Urwa, an Eladrin wizard schooled in the tradition of the legendary Spiral Tower, joined the party, having just completed a series of secret trials of his magical aptitude and skill.
It is late afternoon and the group has been relaxing after their previous tests. All around them, a festival-like atmosphere is building. Children laugh and chase each other through the crowd. Farmers gather together to drink tea and discuss business in the gathering dusk. Cook fires and roasting pits send clouds of delicious aromas wafting through the throngs. It promises to be a very good evening.
Aran, the Head Judge of the trials, approaches the group and congratulates them on their success. They have been chosen for the final examination. He bids the party to follow and they do, each falling in line behind him. The group is led to the Judge’s tent. Inside, five judges are seated on camp chairs behind a wooden table. Five chairs are arranged before the table. The party is invited to sit, which they do.
The judges have devised a hypothetical examination. They will measure the party’s responses and judge them according to strategy, creativity, conviction, discipline, and initiative. The party is allowed to work as a team, each contributing thoughts, ideas, and skills to accomplish the hypothetical goal. Rhonarr (Dragonborn Warlord) confers with the team and presents his opening remarks. Devlin (Halfling Rogue) coaches him on how best to spin the answers, Gerith (Human Paladin) has several insights that informs the team’s answers. Elrohir’s (Elf Ranger) exceptional knowledge of the territory and its inherent dangers helps resolve issues of strategy. Alkar’s (Eladrin Wizard) knowledge of the region’s history also aids the presentation along.
The party responds with strong, well-reasoned responses. Only twice do they slip up but overall, their answers are deemed suitable. In one particularly vexing but nonetheless impressive demonstration, Devlin takes advantage of a dual distraction (the team huddling together to discuss their answer and Alkar fey steps in front of the judges) to sneak up to the judges’ table. He gets very close and listens to a whispered debate.
“They are clever and resourceful, but perhaps too over-eager and reckless? They’re good and they seem to know it well,” said Varrus, the town’s resident swordmaster.
“Not at all!” declares Devlin and the judges suddenly discover the halfling stands in their midst. Some judges wear scowls, others hide a thin smile behind their hands. Aran simply raises one eyebrow and measures Devlin with a calculating, hawk-like gaze. Devlin defends his position but carefully steps back to rejoin his party.
“Thank you, men,” Aran says. “I believe we have heard…and seen…all we need. We will discuss the matter this evening. By morning light, we will alert you to our decision. You are excused.” The party nods their appreciation as they file out the tent and into a beautiful dusk. The festivities are about to begin and the group is finally ready to relax.
A Late Evening
The party is heartily welcomed by the Rockfall community. Crowds of townsfolk and farmsteaders applaud and congratulate the young warriors on their success. Heartha, dwarven cleric of Moradin and one of the Council Elders, personally commends each member and buys them a round of drinks. She properly toasts the warriors and moves on. Devlin slips away to carouse and strikes up a friendly dice game. He makes it exciting by using some tricks he’s picked up along the way.
An enterprising merchant is working the crowd and promoting his new creation, a dark bitter beer. It seems to be a success and Gerith thinks he will have a pint or two. The merchant seems a decent fellow and Gerith enjoys the beer immensely. Elrohir looks on, not really interested in the local cuisine. He keeps a weather eye out for trouble and notices the two groups of warriors they had beaten earlier: “Hammer” group nod or raise their mugs in grudging salute while the “Dagger” group hunkers down over their ale and mutter and glare back, obviously nursing hard feelings.
Rhonarr stays at the table and makes a polite show of cleaning and sharpening his exotic weapons. Being only one of a handful of dragonborn in town, Rhonarr attracts attention, particularly of Rockfall’s younger generation. After some initial shyness, the kids warm up to Rhonarr and eventually, he is arm-wrestling a half-dozen kids at once…and just barely losing after a (mock) hard struggle, much to the cheers and squealing delight of the children. Unfortunately, one particular citizen does not approve of Rhonarr and she orders her child to leave the fun immediately. Some folk shake their heads at the woman’s rude display and the party carries on.
As the hours pass by, the older folk retire and the younger couples all sit around a big bonfire and listen as members of the Learned Society each take turns telling stories of recent exploits and honoring those citizens who died or were killed this past year. Eventually, requests for favorite stories of legendary heroes and battles are called out and the fire burns down and the storytellers weave their particular magic under the stars. At midnight, the party, exhausted, finally return to their tents for a good night’s rest.
A Call To Arms
Two hours before dawn, the alarm bell rings, stirring the grounds into sudden activity. Rhonarr and Devlin look out their tents and see people running about on urgent errands. Council Elders, guard captains, and veterans seem to be converging on the main pavilion. The party quickly don their armor and gather their weapons.
As they approach the main pavilion, the see Heartha tending to a wounded gnome. The gnome has brought dire news: a force of goblins surprise attacked their southern outpost (on the other side of the mountain from Rockfall). It is a mystery how such a large force has penetrated so far without any detection, but the gnomes are in desperate need and they are invoking the Accords.
Aran is there and nods his head grimly. He begins barking orders and veterans scramble to assume their posts and secure Rockfall. Aran turns toward the party and nods to himself, making a spot decision.
“You men, you proved yourselves capable yesterday and it was agreed that you are worthy to become guardsmen. Now, you have to prove it for real. Return to the outpost with Mixelplix (the wounded gnome), reinforce their position, and hold out until we can secure our borders and detach our reserves. We are counting on you!”
Despite their lack of rest, the party is ready for the challenge and they quickly organize themselves, checking gear and getting weapons ready. The party learns that Mixelplix had been magically transported to Rockfall’s portal circle by the outpost commander. He has a magic scroll for the return trip and once everyone is set, he invokes the ritual to open the outpost’s teleport circle. The group steps through the magic barrier…
…and into a hail of goblin javelins! Mixelplix falls, the scroll in his hands destroyed and his small body run through by two ugly javelins. The magic of the portal sputters and fails, leaving the party boxed in the portal’s alcove. The group is behind the outpost’s main fortification, a tall wooden structure that seems to have grown naturally from the surrounding forest. The night’s darkness is held back by the orange glow of several fires. The smoke of burning trees, vegetation, and something worse chokes the air. Screams and shouts punctuate the desperate struggle unfolding. It seems the entire outpost is overrun.
Devlin is the first to respond. He dashes forward, past his allies, and glides silently along a wooden wall, squeezing between the wall and a nearby stone well. There are two goblin warriors preparing to throw two more javelins. At the far corner of the outpost wall, a fire beetle the size of a wolf spits fire, setting the building aflame. Devlin brings up his hand crossbow and fires: his shot goes wide of two goblin warriors.
Rhonarr hefts his greataxe and assesses the situation. He orders Elrohir to fire an arrow, which the elf ranger does, but it is a narrow shot and the arrow misses. Rhonarr follows after Devlin. Elrohir covers his advance, launching two more arrows in quick succession. One barely misses, the other hits the goblin high in the chest. Alkar casts scorching burst between the goblins, but they’re able to evade the flash of magic fire.
The goblins heave javelins at Rhonarr, both of which strike true, one of which punches through his armor and wounds him deeply. The goblins are somewhat startled when they hear the crunch of javelin against armor…apparently, the party is not another gnomish illusion! They fall back and with much shouting and prodding with spears, the goblins send the fire beetle charging at the group. The fire beetle gets close and sprays fire at Rhonarr, Elrohir, and Alkar. Rhonarr takes the worst of the flame. Gerith strides forward and lays hands upon Rhonarr, restoring some of the dragonborn’s vitality.
Devlin smoothly draws a shuriken and sends it slicing into a goblin warrior. Rhonarr orders Elrohir to attack again and the elf fires an arrow, striking the fire beetle. Rhonarr also moves to flank the beetle, daring its flaming pincers. Elrohir follows through with two more arrows, hitting both goblin warriors each. Alkar’s magic missile slays one goblin warrior. It’s comrade slain, the last goblin starts looking to escape. The last goblin shouts something loud and urgent in its awful language. He hurls one last javelin before pelting around the corner of the outpost wall. Gerith maneuvers clear of the fire beetle and attempts to get an angle on the fleeing goblin.
Devlin takes advantage of Rhonarr’s flanking maneuver and deals a mortal blow to the fire beetle. Rhonarr finishes off the creature and the rest of the party spreads out and moves to pursue the last goblin.
Devlin, concealed in the flickering shadows of trees and gnome buildings on fire, moves quickly from tree to tree. The goblin warrior is running and shouting and an entire squad of goblin cutters backed up by more goblin warriors comes around the north side of the outpost. Rhonarr tells Elrohir to target the fleeing goblin and in one smooth pull, the arrow ends the life of the foul creature. The goblin cutters see this and swarm forward, urged on by the thumping of spears by the larger warriors. Elrohir’s bow sings as arrows fly, killing one cutter. Alkar sends another scorching burst to burn the warriors. Gerith moves closer to protect and guard Elrohir’s flank.
The goblin cutters surge past where Devlin is hiding in the shadows…he lets them pass, concentrating instead on the tougher warriors behind them. More javelins are hurled into the darkness and Elrohir and Gerith are hit. Rhonarr kills one with his axe. Elrohir ignores his wounds and maintains his rate of fire, wounding more goblin warriors. Devlin steps out of the shadows and flicks several shuriken at the goblin warriors. The spinning blades strike three goblin warriors with deadly precision, wounding all three and blinding two warriors. The goblin cutters swarm up to Elrohir with wickedly curved blades but before they can strike, Rhonarr breathes lightning at them. They die in an arcing flash of blue light and rolling thunder. Gerith runs forward to assist Devlin, who finds himself too far ahead of their main line. Rhonarr follows and despite Devlin taking a deadly hit by a spear, Rhonarr and Gerith cut down the goblin warriors as they attempt to flee.
Gerith pursues the last goblin around to the front of the outpost and slays him. The paladin looks up and sees several burning trees and smaller dwellings in flames. More goblins and fire beetles swarm the grounds. The bodies of dead gnomes litter the ground or lie across smoldering hedges. The main doors to the outpost are sundered and sounds of fighting can be heard inside. Smoke is thick and Gerith can see that if the blaze is not contained, the entire area could be reduced to ashes…a prospect that pains the holy knight of Melora.
What Happens Next? Will they press on despite tough odds? Will they take a short breather to rest and strategize or forge ahead? Will the group break the goblins or be forced to withdraw from the field themselves? We shall see…
Each member in the party has reached another milestone. This means everyone earns another Action Point. By my reckoning, each PC should currently have two (2) Action Points going into next week’s game session.
Each PC has earned a total of 600 XP Each PC has earned 50gp in equipment (back in Rockfall)