Posted by : David Guyll June 09, 2014

Cast
  • Augustine (4th-level human paladin)
  • Jaya (5th-level human bard)
  • Mouse (5th-level gnome thief)

After spending about a half hour of surveying the sawmill, as best they could tell there were only a pair of elves situated inside, which meant that there were likely a lot more in hiding. Jacob's armor-laden cart was far too large and noisy to sneak by, and even if they backtracked and gave the sawmill a wide birth, the only bridge spanning the nearby river was a stone's throw away from it.

That left them with the task of defeating a force with unknown numbers, unknown positions, and in a defensible location.

Their best chance would be to attack from multiple directions at once, preferably with the element of surprise. The sawmill had several entrances, as well as several unconventional ones. The "plan" was for Mouse to climb through a window, while Jaya and Augustine take one of the doors since they were larger, louder, and not at all accustomed to sneaking. This was probably why, as soon as they made it halfway across the bridge, they heard a voice calling out and demanding them to stop.

As they stood there a pair of elves emerged, one from each end, bows readied and aimed at them. The one that called out asked what their business was. Jaya got about halfway through explaining that they were merely travelers passing through when an elf fell out of a tree behind them. Inquisition-Elf shouted to his fallen comrade, asking if he was okay, but when he did not move he motioned for the other to go and help. As Other-Elf approached the fallen elf jerkily sat up and feebly waved an arm. He obviously seemed disoriented and injured, and when Other-Elf got within arm's reach realized too late why.

Mouse leaped over the corpse, screaming, and slammed feet first into Other-Elf's chest, driving his short sword into his skull and killing him instantly. As they both fell to the ground numerous shapes suddenly appeared in the windows of the sawmill's second floor, and Mouse scurried underneath Other-Elf's corpse just in time to avoid getting riddled by a volley of arrows.

Augustine used the opportunity to step behind Inquisition-Elf's and slip his shadowsteel knife between his ribs. He died, but apparently the elves had only been willing to overlook them for the moment in the face of crazed, murdering, inexplicably shrieking gnome, and unfortunately for him there were more in the nearby trees. They took shots at Augustine and Jaya, driving them out of sight underneath the bridge.

A pair of elves exited the sawmill and ran towards Mouse. Apparently they were none too happy with him using the corpse of a beloved comrade as a shield, but when they tried to tear it away he lashed out with his sword. It sliced the back of one of the elves' legs, and as he fell to the ground Mouse emerged from cover to finish the job. The other elf let go of the corpse, but by the time he got an arrow knocked Mouse had already killed the other elf and was now using him as a shield.

With all of the elves focused on Mouse, Jaya was able to focus her magic into a bolt of sound that knocked a nearby elf out of his tree, giving her and Augustine a—hopefully—clear shot at one of the sawmill's doors. Unfortunately for them as soon as Augustine emerged from the shelter of the bridge a few diverted their fire, and he used his considerably more heavily-armored body to shield Jaya from the arrows while they both went for the door.

Augustine tried the door, which of course was locked, and proceeded to kick it in. Inside the sawmill Augustine and Jaya could see that there were a pair of tracks, each leading to a moving sawblade, behind which were several stacks of wood. More importantly, a group of four elves were crouched behind the nearest track and aiming bows at them.

Mouse had taken care of the other elf and scaled the wall up to the second-story window. He peered inside and saw a pair of elves looking over a railing and knocking arrows. He slipped inside, crept up behind one, and drove a dagger into his spine. To his surprise he did not die. In fact, he did not even seem to bleed. It was not until both elves were upon him, sword in each hand, that he saw they were wearing fine suits of deceptively quiet mail.

Jaya screamed out a note, causing one of the elves to shoot another, and using the confusion both her and Augustine were able to rush forward and hide on the other side of the track. Up close and personal Augustine had no problem hacking them apart, and for all their speed and grace he was still covered in metal. They quickly fled through the front entrance, lighting a few stacks of drying wood on fire and sealing the doors as they went. Augustine tried to follow, but they had barred the doors from the other side, meaning they would have to go out the way they came in.

The pair of elves chased Mouse about the balcony, and after suffering several severe wounds he finally managed to find a weak point in their armor: their faces. The surviving elf leaped out the window, and Mouse, realizing that the sawmill was quickly being engulfed in flames, followed. Well, not right away: there were several elf corpses laden with rare, high-quality chainmail. He lifted their pouches, rolled their bodies out the window, then evacuated.

With the fire inching closer Jaya tried leaping into the water to avoid both it and the arrows. Unfortunately it was too late to avoid the former, and as she tried to put out her cloak she fell back into the waterwheel. It extinguished the fire, but when she tried to get off of the wheel heard several loud twangs, followed by arrows thudding into the wood near her. Though the arrows had missed her, her relief was short-lived when she realized that they had pinned her clothes to the wheel.

Which was slowly pulling her towards the water.

Augustine tried to free her, but was pinned down by a steady stream of arrows. Furious and out of options, he picked up a bow and shot back...and to his astonishment managed to kill one of the elves in a single shot. He gave it another shot, and again one fell. There was just one left, but as he prepared to fire again Jaya surfaced. She was still stuck to the wheel, coughing up water and gasping for breath. He leaped onto the wheel, heedless of the danger, and began yanking arrows and cutting clothes where necessary.

Once she was freed he helped her up. He had expected the elf to put an arrow through his skull, or maybe try to pin him to the wheel, but when he looked to where he had last seen it the elf was crumpled at the base of the tree. He glanced about and saw Mouse in another tree some distance away. He was sitting high up on a branch, resting against the trunk with his eyes closed. His clothes were badly torn and deeply stained with blood. Augustine wondered if he was still alive, but when he went to try and heal him he produced a healing potion and began calmly sipping it.

The last three days of the journey were uneventful: no elves, no burning buildings, and—possibly the most comforting of the three—no screaming gnome. When they arrived at the Hargrave's keep they were...surprised. They assumed it would be at least a sizable castle with walls and towers, something that ensured that Hargrave could safely rock the proverbial boat with the denizens of the Great Forest and safely endure any retribution. What they saw was no mere castle.

A stone ramp gradually wound back and forth from the ground up the side of a cliff, occasionally disappearing behind a majestic waterfall. At the top of the plateau were numerous buildings, as if the city was cut directly from the cliff itself. Overlooking the city and cliff were not one but two fortresses, built on either side of a wide river, over which spanned a great arch: Hell's Arch, a dwarf city ancient even by their standards.

Along with countless other people displaced by war, they made the long trek up the ramp and into the city. Once they were inside it took a few hours before they were able to find and meet with Fiona. She thanked them for their help and explained that the Autumn Monarch was preparing to attack. She was more than willing to pay them for their services--she owed them that much for the return of her child and helping keep Jarl safe from the Baron and his men--but if the Monarch's forces took the city then, well, she would have nothing to give.

Basically she was indirectly saying that they did not have to help, but if they chose not to then the odds of them getting anything out of this lengthy venture of theirs would be all the slimmer. As an added incentive, she offered land and titles if they would stay to help, or even just more money. Before they could decide a man entered the room. He was clad in scale armor, and was mostly covered by a green cloak. He carried a sword at his side, the hilt of which was capped with what looked like white antler, specifically the antlers given to Fiona by Jarl.

He walked over to her and whispered something in her ear. She stood, eyes widened with apprehension, and bid everyone to come with her. They followed her through the keep, and outside towards the ramparts. At the base of the cliff were a myriad of fey creatures: elves, centaurs, dryads, griffons, ents, and more. They were all standing in formations a good distance away from a single figure mounted on a white stag, clothed in red, yellow, and brown.

The Autumn Monarch.

As they stood there a gust of wind picked up, blowing past them. Within the wind they could hear words: the Monarch was using it to carry his message to her. He told her that she had three days to deliver the prisoners they were keeping to him, or else. She said that she understood, and the wind blew again, this time away from them. Likely it was bringing her words back. After a few minutes the creatures departed, though the Monarch lingered for a bit before turning to leave.

Augustine turned to her and levelly asked what prisoners he was speaking of. Fiona exasperatingly replied that Hargrave, with the help of a witch named Shona, had made it a hobby of capturing fey creatures to experiment on and torture. She had intended to free them, but Hargrave's nephew, a petulant man named Mark, refused to acknowledge her claim to the throne. He, along with a number of loyal men and Shona, were now holed up in the Deeps, which meant that they had just three days to infiltrate a fortress to break out some prisoners.

Behind the Scenes
I came pretty close to dying this session: when Mouse jumped out of the second story window, he kicked an elf out of the tree in the process. The elf died, but he managed to shoot Mouse down to one hit point, and I kept waiting to fall, get shot, or hit by something. If I die, which I fully expect to, what should I play next? Think Dan would let me come back as a gnome skeleton?

Something I just now realized that at no point did any of us try to discern realities (no, not even while staking out the sawmill). Maybe if we had done that we might have realized that they were all wearing elven chain mail. Speaking of elven chainmail, here is a quick writeup:

Elven Chainmail 2 armor, worn, 500 coins, 2 weight

Also, wolf belts for all!

Wolf-Spirit Belt worn, 0 weight
When you don a wolf-spirit belt, you transform into a wolf until the next sunrise and roll+WIS. *On a 10+, you manage to retain control of your mind and actions. *On a 7-9, the spirit of the wolf constantly urges you to lead, hunt, and kill.

In wolf form you move faster, have heightened senses, and can hack and slash with your bite. On a 10+ you are totally fine, but on a 7-9 the wolf spirit tries to push you to do things or take control when you let your guard down (perfect for 7-9 or miss results on other moves).

The sunrise bit was something I added, as I think of this like something akin to lycanthrope. Dan added a call of the wild hold, which never came up, but I could see adding that in as part of the 7-9 or miss effect to make the character defy danger to avoid putting the belt back on (representing a kind of addiction).

Announcements
10+ Treasures is now a Best Copper Seller, which means that it has sold more copies than something that is not a Best [Element] Seller so, thanks to everyone that bought it to support me. I am considering making another book of magic items: is that something that you guys would want to see? If so, let me know if you have a theme in mind (I was going to go with pirates and the ocean to support Melissa's upcoming pirate playbook).

Something else I am interested in is what people think of the content I have posted on my G+ Sundered World community. If you want to take a look click here or on the nifty graphic I slapped on the sidebar. In hindsight I should have not made it private (and G+ will not let you change after the fact), but just ask to join, I'll add you, and you can let me know what you like, hate, or want to see.

{ 3 comments... read them below or Comment }

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  2. I love your adventure write ups they are a blast to read! I don't think Augustine or Jaya would be keen on having a skeleton after the trouble they have had with him when he was alive... But it would make things interesting. Either way I will be sad to see Mouse go if/when he takes his last breath.

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  3. Me too, but I have been hankering to give another class a shot. :-D

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