The News from Town
The group has been welcomed back from their valiant defense of the Gnome Outpost by the citizens of Rockfall. Granted, all but one of the gnome defenders croaked due to goblin attacks but the Guardsmen of Rockfall defeated the (suspected) Orcus cult goons. They were issued accommodations in the garrison barracks, if they so desired. Also, they were given a stipend (50gp) to spend for equipment, weapons, and armor. The rest of their reward from the gnome leader Lucceia was divided equally between them (160gp each).
A few days pass in Rockfall in which all of the visitors attending the Gathering have returned to their respective homes, turning Rockfall into a small, quiet community hidden in a mountain again. During this time, the group is debriefed by Arand, Rockfall’s Guard Captain and former Ranger. Alkar has been recruited to help research the curious scroll the dragonborn Gorn brought out of the wilderness. The Learned Society is very interested in the scroll. They have discovered the text is a previously unknown alphabet; a composite of Rellanic and Supernal scripts. Despite casting rituals to decipher the scroll, the context of the message is meaningless. The Learned Society, particularly a dwarf scholar named Dansk Hammerfist, is very interested in obtaining more information from this mysterious tomb.
Other reports reach the ears of the group. The Elves of the Harpwood, returning home from the Gathering, found tracks of a large group of orcs heading toward the hill country north of Rockfall. Also, more information from the gnome Gwillem suggests the so-called Silverthimble’s Tomb (named for the gnome explorer who recently set out to find the tomb and is still missing) might be found on the east side of the Silver river in the swamps, south-east of Mirror Lake.
At one point, a young Rockfall citizen named Wain seeks out the group. Wain operates the Wain’s Overland Trading Concern, a small company of wagon merchants running trade routes with Elvarren (the only Elf village “open” to non-elves for trade) and Lakeport (the dockside market of the River Folk on Mirror Lake). Like many of Rockfall’s younger generation, he chafes at the “hidebound” restrictions imposed by the Elder Council. Wain hopes to establish a trade route with Pandathaway on the coast (or any viable village or town that may still exist outside of Rockfall). Wain has learned the name of a once-famous highway called the “Gold Road” that stretched the length of the Golden Empire (Imperia Aurum). If this road can be found, it would be the first step to realizing his life’s ambition. Wain suggests that if the group locates the road, he would be in their debt if they could let him know about it wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
Rhonarr, who has taken oath to guard and protect Rockfall from discovery, responds emphatically “No.” Wain, undeterred but eager to move along (irate dragonborn naturally intimidates the self-styled merchant prince), tells the group to keep an open mind and if they ever need something, drop in at the shop…special discount for Guardians!
After spending time to equip themselves, the party discusses their options: investigate the claims of orcs along the norther borders or head south in search of Silverthimble’s Tomb. After much discussion, the group decides to head north. Devlin would rather head south and he despairs of the prejudice of “big folk” but he goes along with the group.
Of Walkabouts and Wolves
The four companions of the thus unmonikered group venture forth down the mountainside and through the cultivated hill country. The few citizen farmers wave and cheer the men as they pass through. Before long, however, they put the relative safety of Rockfall behind them and are enveloped by the wilderness. It is a fine summer’s day and judging by certain observations (Nature), Elrohir notes they should enjoy relatively benign weather for the next 24 hours. To the west, the huge Harpwood forest fills the horizon. In the distance, eagles, hawks, and the occasional griffon can be seen soaring over that most ancient of forests.
The elf ranger guides the group to the location where orc-sign was discovered. They come upon tracks, but upon closer examination, Elrohir thinks they’re not orc-tracks at all. By his reckoning (he rolls a natural 1), they belong to an elf, a dragonborn, a halfling, and a human. Devlin taps Elrohir’s elbow. “Not those tracks. These tracks.” Elrohir turns around and follows the halfling’s pointing finger. The grassland has been trampled and what is clearly orc tracks heads east toward the hill country. Elrohir says nothing and Devlin now takes the point, moving ahead of the group to scout out any threats.
The group follows the days-old tracks for the rest of the day and before the sunlight totally disappears, they find a grove of trees in which to camp for the night. Because the weather is still pleasant and they have ample food and water (Everlasting Provisions – Gnome cuisine!), they forego starting a fire. Rhonarr and Gareth take off their heavy armor and settle down for the night. Elrohir takes the first watch; nothing eventful happens. Devlin takes the second watch and before too long, he hears the not-to-distant howl of a wolf. In moments, two more howls answer. Devlin thinks the howls are coming from the north and east. His eyes do not pierce the darkness well and he whispers an urgent warning down to his comrades. The howls increase in frequency and decrease in distance. Rhonarr and Gareth scramble to suit up their armor while Elrohir readies his bow.
Noting that his companions are disadvantaged by the cover of darkness, he ignites a sunrod and throws it into the center of the grove. Golden light pours through the trees, lighting up the night. Devlin hides at the top of a stony hillock. Elrohir crests another hill. They do not have long to wait before a dire wolf and its pack, three more gray wolves, emerge from the shadows. Elrohir sends shaft after shaft into the huge wolf and falls back, keeping his distance from its slavering jaws. Rhonarr’s axe bites into a gray wolf as he is flanked by all three. Devlin throws shuriken with deadly precision, cutting into two and temporarily blinding them. Gareth’s armor protects him from the wolf’s bite. A gray wolf locks his jaws onto Rhonarr and knocks him prone, but Gareth and Devlin manage to fend off the wolves before they can tear into the dragonborn. Elrohir slays the dire wolf with two more critical strikes and he sends more shafts at the gray wolves. Devlin finishes off the last two gray wolves, cutting them down from behind. The night is quiet again and after cleaning up weapons and retrieving thrown shuriken, the Team Wolfkiller returns to their much needed rest.
Poor Orc-hestration…get it?!
The party has gained on the orc party since the night before, moving faster than their quarry, thanks to the skills of Elrohir and the sharp perceptions of Devlin. They follow the orc-sign into the edge of the Spider Wood, a dangerous forest known for…you guessed it…an infestation of giant spiders. This part of the forest is overgrown with relatively puny “normal” trees whose trunks are a measly 5 feet in diameter as opposed to the huge 10 foot wide boles of Scotttrees, magical timber blessed by Melora herself. Devlin uses this superior cover to sneak up on the orcs, who have joined a larger force of orcs and dire boars. There is much shouting and yelling but Devlin does not understand the foul language of the orcs. Still, his insight suggests that these are scouting groups who are exchanging information. Devlin waits long enough to see the orc group they have been tracking begin to detach from the others and double-back on their trail, presumably to exit the Spider Wood. Devlin high-tails it back to the group.
In a brief, urgent discussion, Devlin reports everything that he witnessed. Between Elrohir and Devlin, they suppose the orcs are scouting the area for new lodging, perhaps in the woods or in one of the many caverns found in the hill country. Letting the orcs achieve a foothold in the hills surrounding Rockfall is certainly on the list of “bad things” and the group prepare to ambush the orcs on their way out of the wood.
They do not have long to wait. The dire boar, an enormous brute of a creature leads they way, urged on by its keepers, two orc berserkers. Another pair of hatchet-wielding orc raiders bring up the rear. Rhonarr and Devlin are the closest to them, each hiding behind a scotttree. Devlin holds still, letting the enemy pass him, betraying nothing of his presence, even to the giant boar. There is a large watering hole near Rhonarr’s hiding spot and the great beast stops for a drink of the murky water. Rhonarr springs into action, charging the boar in an attempt to drive the brute into the muddy water. He hits the boar hard, but despite the dragonborn’s great strength, the boar avoids the push. Elrohir fires arrows into the dire boar and the “big pig” squeals in pain. Gareth challenges the great brute and attacks, missing. The orc berserkers are surprised, as are the raiders. Devlin holds back, biding his time and waiting for the right moment to strike. He is an artist and cannot be rushed.
The dire boar roars and gores Gareth but the paladin’s armor protects him from the beast’s awful tusks. Elrohir sends more shafts into the boar, drawing out more squeals of pain. Rhonarr keeps the cover of the scotttree against the orcs and he hits at the boar again, drawing blood. The berserkers move, each one moving on opposite sides of the giant tree. The raiders also move; one charges at Elrohir and flings a throwing axe at the elf but misses. The other raider sweeps behind the berserker. Devlin flexes his fingers, fanning the shuriken and sending them spinning at the orcs and boar. A shuriken only grazes the thick hide of the boar but both the berserker and the raider are blinded and bleeding by the strike. Rhonarr positions himself and breathes lightning at the boar and two orcs, but the worst of his lightning breath misses, only damaging the berserker.
Elrohir fires more arrows at the onrushing raider and sticks a shaft through his thigh, slowing him and drawing blood. The raider hurls another axe but Elrohir drops back, keeping his distance. The raider limps behind a tree to hide from the elf’s deadly aim. The boar is forced to attack Gareth and gores him once with his cruel tusks, but an inspiring word from Rhonarr restores the paladin. However, the berserker critically hits Gareth with a greataxe and bloodies the paladin. Devlin draws his new favorite shortsword and snickersnack! cuts the still-blinded raider, blooding him. The berserker, also blinded, scrabbles onto a fallen log and swings wildly at Rhonarr but misses.
Elrohir maneuvers through the woods, gliding like death and loosing more arrows. One hits the berserker, grievously wounding him. Devlin engages the raider, who drops his throwing axe and draws a carved horn from his belt. He sounds an alarm, the grating rumble lifting to the treetops. Not too distantly, an answering horn is heard. Devlin slices the magic shortsword through the raider’s back, killing him. The blinded berserker can see again and he swings at Rhonarr, who ducks the wicked axe; the orc berserker seems to have found new vitality and roars a challenge. The boar attacks Gareth again, cracking his tusks against the paladin’s stout armor. Rhonarr kills the berserker on the fallen tree, cutting his legs out from under him. The other raider turns to flee and Rhonarr pursues, setting off a chain of events.
Rhonarr disengages the bloodied dire boar (provoking an OA), who tries to gore him. Because the boar attacked someone other than Gareth, a radiant flash of light (Gareth’s Divine Challenge) singes the staggering boar, killing him. But, the boar’s death strike is one last gore attack, which it focuses on Gareth. Gareth deflects the giant tusks with his sword and armored gauntlets and the great brute is slain.
Elrohir finishes off the last berserker with an arrow through his skull and Rhonarr hews the fleeing raider down like a sapling. Team WhateverTheirNameIs is victorious!
Looks Like We’re Going To Have Company!
The day is waning and the Spider Wood is growing more ominous in the slanting orange light. Orc war-horns sound in the distance, getting closer. Also, the group has started to hear a clicking, chattering noise and sudden bursts of movement in the thick canopy above, scattering leaves and small twigs in its wake. Elrohir moves about, recovering arrows. Devlin also scrambles around the bloody ground and bracken, recovering shuriken. Gareth and Rhonarr quickly examine their work; most orc armor and weapons are of horrible quality and worse repair. However, they notice the dire boar had some thin pouches of elven-make strapped to the beast. A flick of his longsword recovers the pouches and he feels a fair weight of coins; no doubt loot from the orc raiding party’s recent travels near the elven territories. There will be time enough to count it later…
Rhonarr: 365 XP Elrohir: 365 XP Devlin: 365 XP Gareth: 365 XP
leather belt pouch 1 (elven-make): 30gp, 100sp leather belt pouch 2 (elven-make): 200sp
2 orcish greataxes, 3 throwing axes, 4 rusty daggers