Land of Epiro

#3 - Patrolling the Northern Territory

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…

DM NOTES:

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

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The Gnome Outpost

From where we left off, Gareth had just chased down the last of the goblin warriors that had attacked the rear of the outpost. He alone was in the front area of the outpost while the rest of the party followed close behind…

Turning the Tide

From out of the ruined threshold of the gnome outpost, a bleeding, horribly wounded Dragonborn drives off several intimidated goblin warriors, who withdraw farther down the hill. The darkness of the deep wood is dimly lit by the burning trees and fortifications around the small clearing and the group catches fleeting shapes in the shadows and hears the ugly language of the goblins as the creatures regroup.

The dragonborn gives in to his wounds and collapses outside the threshold. Three gnomes, two in leather armor and one in dark green robes, rush out from the broken doorway. One gnome bends down to check on the dragonborn and, belatedly, notices Gareth standing at the edge of the darkness. The gnome snaps a hand crossbow and takes aim. Gareth raises his arms, attempting to placate the panicked gnome. “Hold! We are allies from Rockfall! We’re here to help you.”

The gnome hesitates and the green-robed gnome peers at Gareth. The holy symbol of Melora, goddess of the wilderness and the sea, is visible and the elder gnome sags with relief. “Well met, sir. Please! Help us retrieve our wounded before these foul devils get organized.”

Gareth raises an eyebrow at being ordered around by a gnome but, given the circumstances, he holds his tongue. He signals the rest of the group to come forward and they all start checking the fallen gnome warriors. When Rhonarr sees the fallen dragonborn, he feels an odd twist in his heart. The only dragonborn Rhonarr has known are his father and uncles. Gareth, who has some skill in the art of healing, examines the fallen dragonborn. Unfortunately, the warrior is dead and Gareth moves on. Everyone is busy checking for survivors and finding none. In once instance, Devlin’s sharp eye is drawn to a particularly fine shortsword still grasped in a dead gnome’s hands. Despite a deep dislike for gnomes, Devlin does not loot the weapon.

Everyone does their part and they retreat back into the relative safety of the outpost. The main doors have been sundered and the surviving gnome warriors quickly go about repairing what they can, piecing together planks and table tops to reinforce the shattered doors. Inside, the toll of close-quarters fighting is evident. Most gnomes are dead from javelins and spear strikes. Several goblin corpses are riddled with crossbow bolts. Alkar and Gareth notice the goblins wear ill-kept clothing bearing the faded symbol of Orcus, a demon prince and self-proclaimed god of the undead. This is an unwelcome sign that a cult of murderous demon-worshipers are at hand.

The Tale of the Lost Tomb

While the group takes a short rest before the imminent goblin attack, the green-robed gnome introduces himself as Orex Gwillem. He is a chief servant of Lucceia, a prominent elder of the local gnome enclave. Along with Mixelplix (Lucceia’s apprentice), they had come to this outpost to observe the fantastic claims of an adventuring group. This team declared finding an ancient ruin that had very strange murals and writing inside.

The leader of the group, a gnome named Silverthimble, believed this tomb concealed a great secret. He did not explain his theory but he certainly believed it to be very important. He enlisted some adventurous gnomes and “outsiders,” including an elf named Crow and Gorn, the dragonborn mercenary. They had set out for this tomb twenty days ago. They were supposed to have returned after no more than ten days. Long overdue, Orex Gwillem had given the adventurers up for lost.

Then, late yesterday afternoon, Gorn, wounded and exhausted, had been sighted by scouts. They brought Gorn to the outpost. The dragonborn spoke of a harrowing escape from a large force of goblins that ambushed their campsite. Silverthimble seemed to know what they were after…pages of symbolic writing they had copied from metal tablets found in the tomb. Silverthimble divided the records between himself, Crow, and Gorn. Gorn said he got separated from the others while crossing the Silverlight River and did not know what became of the others.

Then, this night, the goblins struck the outpost. Gwillem does not understand how they got so close without any warning. Regardless, the outpost was suddenly fighting for its survival. Fire beetles burned trees and burrows. Javelins rained heavy and thick in the darkness, driving down the surprised defenders. Unexpected magic confused and disoriented the defenders. During a lull in the action, Mixelplix chanced a ritual scroll to activate the magic circle and get help.

At this part of Gwillem’s exposition, Rhonarr and Gareth inform him that Mixelplix died in the attempt to bring them here. Gwillem nods in weariness, accepting the bad news. The gnome warriors gather weapons and bolts. They hand Alkar a pouch with three potion flasks inside. “These are healing potions. You’re going to need them,” says a gnome warrior. Alkar accepts the potions and gives one to Devlin, one to Elrohir, and one for himself.

Gwillem notices that Devlin is interested in the fine shortsword. He offers Devlin the blade. “The gnome who owned this sword would hate knowing that his beloved weapon is in the hands of the River Folk. Please take it and use it well, sir. We need every advantage we can find.” [DM Note: +1 Duelist’s Shortsword]

To Rhonarr, he suggests that if he has need of it, Gorn’s chainmail armor seems very fine and is already suited for a dragonborn. Rhonarr sees the wisdom of this and he puts on the armor. [DM Note: +1 Exalted Chain Armor]

Outpost Assault, Goblin Style

Devlin and Elrohir climb stairs to the “roof” of the outpost (which is disguised to appear as a forested hillock) and conceal themselves among the trees and bushes, looking for targets. Alkar does the same on the opposite end of the hill. The two gnome warriors take positions at narrow windows facing the goblins, hand crossbows at the ready. Rhonarr steps up to the battered doors. They will not likely hold and he wants to be ready to force back intruders. Gareth stands ready to assist Rhonarr or aid the gnome warrior.

Even in the darkness, the orange light of fires lets Elrohir, Devlin, and Alkar glimpse the approach of goblin warriors. One particularly wicked goblin holds a rod with a small humanoid skull attached to the end. “Give me the box! Have the dragon-thing bring it! Do it and I spare you! Do not and you all die by fire!” the creature says in Common.

Rhonarr glances at Gwillem, who is pale with fear. “Come in and get it!” replies Rhonarr. The goblin leader growls in anger. He barks a command and the shadows come alive with darting forms. Goblin warriors advance, leap-frogging from tree to tree, hurling missiles as they climb the hill. Javelins hit the outpost walls, their points sinking into the hard wood. A gnome warrior is slain by a lucky hit. Gareth picks up the gnome’s hand crossbow and takes aim, returns fire.

Two large fire beetles trudge up the hill, their red bodies glowing like a stoked forge. Devlin plans to sneak around the initial wave and strike from behind. He drops down off the wall and moves stealthily through the shadows. Elrohir does not have a clear shot and follows after Devlin, though when he’s down, he gets an angle on the goblin leader. Elrohir fires two arrows. It looked like the leader would take both arrows but at the last moment, he drags a goblin warrior in front of him, using him as a meat shield. More javelins fly. The leader uses the rod to throw some kind of spell upon a window. The last gnome warrior shudders and sags from the magical hex. Alkar casts flaming sphere in a cluster of goblin warriors, burning them as they huddle behind a tree.

Devlin skulks between trees, moving quickly and (for the most part) stealthily into position. From his new vantage, he sees that there are two more goblin sharpshooters hiding in the shadows, waiting for an opportune moment. Elrohir fires two more arrows at the goblin leader. With no more minions about him, the arrows fly true and bloody him. Gareth fires a crossbow bolt but the missile flies wide of the mark. Annoyed, the paladin drops the hand crossbow, cursing all such weapons and their like.

The goblins drive the fire beetles ahead of them, right up to the threshold. A blast from the goblin leader’s skull-rod breaks down half of the door to the outpost before Elrohir kills him with a critical hit. Rhonarr moves out of the threshold, positions himself, and breathes lightning at the fire beetles and goblins gathering to bust through the main entrance. Two goblins die instantly in flashes of blue arc light and thunder. The fire beetles are terribly wounded. Rhonarr’s axe comes crashing down against the nearest fire beetle, killing it. Gareth follows Rhonarr out and positions himself to flank the last fire beetle. He strikes out at the giant beetle but misses.

Rhonarr uses his inspiring word to invigorate his allies. Devlin fires his crossbow at the sharpshooters but misses. Elrohir swings wide, keeping the sharpshooters in his range but staying out of theirs. Two arrows fly but they impact the trees. Alkar maintains his flaming sphere spell and maneuvers it through the goblin’s line, burning a few more to death. Rhonarr teams up with Gareth to concentrate their attacks on the fire beetle. The creature sprays fire at them but they dodge it. Rhonarr brings his axe down on the wounded brute and slays it. To make sure it’s dead, Gareth drives his weapon into it.

Devlin sees an opportunity and he charges out of the darkness at the sharpshooters. By some quality of his new sword, he strikes the goblin, drawing blood. Rhonarr sees Devlin’s plight and moves to back him up. The tide seems to have turned in favor of the party. Elrohir, however, sees a troop of goblins approaching the rear of the outpost. He shouts out into the darkness “Back door!” and sets off to pursue the goblins. Alkar fires a magic missile at a fleeing goblin and slays it. Hearing Elrohir’s warning, he falls back to guard against an attempt at the back entrance to the outpost. Gareth also decides to help Alkar and he maneuvers into position to guard the door.

Rhonarr and Devlin exchange flanking with two goblins. Devlin keeps slicing away at the goblins but they also score a series of hard hits that bloody the halfling. Rhonarr damages the sharpshooter but not before the other goblin warrior drives his spear into Devlin. The halfling falls to the ground, unconscious and bleeding. Rhonarr cuts down his opponent and shouts a command at Devlin. “Get up and fight!” Even from the depths of unconsciousness, Devlin responds to Rhonarr’s commanding voice and he opens his eyes, sees the goblin warrior that cut him down filling his vision, and he slices open the goblin’s belly, dropping him.

Deliveries to the Back Door, Please

By this time, the goblin troop that Elrohir discovered begins hammering down the back door. Gareth readies himself to hold off the goblins while Alkar prepares some magical mayhem. Gwillem, completely in a panic, huddles in a nearby corner. The goblins burst down the door to find a paladin of Melora waiting for them. A goblin bull-rushes Gareth and succeeds in pushing him farther into the room, clearing the way for the other goblins. One by one, the goblins surge into the outpost. Gareth hacks and swings at each goblin as they dart past him. He misses everyone. The goblins begin to mob Gwillem, scratching and clawing the box from the gnome’s hands.

Gareth and Alkar attack the goblin mob. Gareth misses and Alkar’s scorching burst fills the room with smoke and flame, killing two goblins. After a struggle, the goblins prise the box away from Gwillem and beat a hasty retreat toward the back door. Once again, the survivors run past Gareth, dodging his wild swings. Alkar slays one more goblin before it can exit the door, but the goblin carrying the box gets away…

...and stops short when it runs into Elrohir, who draws back his bow. Before it can respond, the elf ranger drives an arrow through the goblin’s skull, slaying him. With the acrobatic skill and grace that only the elves possess, Elrohir dives forward, scoops up the box, and starts to run around the outpost building. Gareth fills the back doorway and sees the last goblin warrior. The goblin has had enough and flees. Gareth, weighed down by his heavy plate armor, does not pursue.

The group has succeeded in eliminating the goblin assault.

Dawning of a New Day

It is a somber mood when dawn breaks. Reinforcements have arrived both from the gnome enclave and from Rockfall. The group has helped gather the fallen gnome warriors and has piled the goblin bodies in a heap.

Gwillem has received instructions from Lucceia to deliver the arcane writings to the Learned Society in Rockfall in the hopes that they can decipher it. Gwillem, grateful to you for saving his life, politely asks you to deliver the box to the Learned Society. Also, the gnomes are eager to discover what happened to their scouts. They must abandon this outpost and are already making plans for a new site. Though the Rockfall citizens have honored the Accords, the gnomes are now fairly eager to be rid of “outsiders” and to salve their wounds and grieve their dead in private.

However, before the group follows the Rockfall elders to the teleport circle to return to their own city, Lucceia thanks the group for their valiant efforts and rewards them for their bravery and quick action. She gives them a pouch of gemstones (6 100gp gems), a magical cloak [+1 cloak of resistance], and a satchel of Everlasting Provisions. Any other items, such as the sword, the armor, and the potions, the party also gets to keep.

With grace and dignity, the party takes their leave of the gnomes and returns to a heroes’ welcome back at Rockfall. The Elder Council and the Learned Society all listen to your story and congratulate you on your success. The Elders are very interested in the news of a potential Cult of Orcus in the vicinity. Also, the Learned Society swarms over Silverthimble’s documents and begin debating what they could mean.

DM Notes

Each PC should have a total of 1,100 XP…LEVEL UP! 6×100gp gems +1 Cloak of Resistance +1 Exalted Armor (Chain) +1 Duelist’s Weapon (Shortsword) Everlasting Provisions

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The Final Test, A Late Evening, and A Call To Arms...

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.

Goblin Marauders

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…

DM Notes:

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)

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