Campaign V: Chapter Four, Mission Sixteen

Recap: The 15th of Davor found the party recovering from the after-effects of their knighting party. Jena decided some time in the night that her knighting was a symbol, and she desperately needed the aid a bonded mount could give a paladin. The rest of her night was spent in the chapel, where she found Aust already praying to Xoriah. Angus drunk himself into a stupor, and passed out on the floor of the Duke's Hall with a great many of the crew from the Rattler. N'Kara and Xzax spent the night out in the woods, away from Gridolin, while Seamus and Cleo 'entertained' one another well after dawn.

Jena's prayers were answered when Duke Henrik's prized horse, Apple Demon, answered her summons to become her bonded mount. The enormous Shire horse had become changed by Yatindar's will, and Prat was rather happy about it -- since no one, including the duke, could break the horse into the saddle.

Seamus decided that it was time to give out a number of special boots he and Xzax had been crafting -- boots of elven kind -- to the rest of the party.

Jena's taking of Apple Demon reminded Prat of a spell he had been working on. N'Kara had request that the duke make a special ring for Xavien -- to let the human see in the dark as well as the rest of the party, as well as protecting him from the attacks of the undead, as the Kiriath bracelets did. The duke agreed, if N'Kara would help him find a familiar. The party agreed to take the duke up on the offer, so long as the task did not distract them from their mission. A hastily-convened war council among the party indicated that it was time to lure in the vampire-medusa, take back the Spinstone, and wreak vengeance.

Before their plans could be set in motion, Duke Henrik was recalled to Mount Basilisk, with most of his senior staff. Leaving in an angry burst, he had just enough time to tell the party that Kestaria -- the village at the heart of the lands they had been granted -- was being lorded over by a pack of trolls. The lead troll was setting himself up as a petty king, even using the title, and the duke had not the time to fix the problem. Six of his Kalen Corps had already been lost trying to route the trolls, and the king's summonings were dire in their possible consequences.

The party decided to wait until the next day, because of Jena and Aust's work through the night, and to give the party time to stock up on resources. For one reason or another, Prat had been told to bring Xavien along, so the young human mage had to temporarily leave the party. It was about this time that Seamus and Angus realized that their mother would kill them, for not having invited her to their knighting. That momentous realization ranked right up there with realizing a vampire-medusa wanted to kill them.

The group laid in battle plans and preparations, scouring Gridolin for information, while Gunju analyzed troll-studies in the duke's libraries. Supplies were laid in, even as Seamus began transferring his crew from the Rattler to the newly acquired, pirate brigandine. Still undecided on a name for it, he figured that he could get Gideon Enterprises to handle the brig's outfitting and pay, while running the ship in his name and registry. Quite bluntly, Seamus did not have enough crew to truly run a light galleon like the Rattler.

At just after sunset, N'Kara, Xzax, and Cleo rode out on horseback for Kestaria -- twenty miles to the north, and barely three marks away by night ride. The three of them performed a reconnaissance of Kestaria, and were to wait there until noon the next day -- when the party would arrive with a wagon-load of food and supplies for the villagers, as well as more arms and armorment.

N'Kara's sensitive nose led her about the village, while Cleo listened in at the mill-and-tavern. Xzax searched around the small valley for the family of rangers that supposedly guarded Kestaria, and acted as Prat's care-takers. It turned out that the rangers were hung up from the walls of the mill-and-tavern, inside -- still alive, but not for long. The troll leader had set himself up as a king, complete with a crown, inside the tavern. In the tavern's cellar -- accessable only through the mill -- were all the town's children, held hostage. A sizeable desk -- large enough that four grown men together could barely move it -- was wedged before the door of the cellar.

When Cleo tried to move the desk, it made just enough sound to alert the trolls -- who posted a guard in front of the door.

When the rest of the party finally got near Kestaria, a hasty battle-plan was formed. The stealthier members of teh group would infiltrate the town, and prepare to wreak havoc on the trolls from behind, and try to rescue the children. The remaining members of the party would try a full-frontal assault to keep the trolls occupied, and draw them out away from the tavern and its cellar.

Aust, in preparing for the combat, attempted to call upon Xoriah to send him a unicorn from the nearby woods -- a creature of such goodness and power that it would aid the party in their attacks against the trolls. Xoriah heard his prayer, but refused to answer them. This deeply troubled the elven cleric, who began to worry if he had fallen out of favor with his goddess. The failed prayer shook his faith considerably, even before the combat had begun.

Jena's horse called out for battle at her urging, and Angus called out nasty dwarven insults at the trolls, even as N'Kara and Seamus infiltrated the mill to aid Cleo. The troll king yelled at one of his underlings to run to the smithy, and retrieve his other crown. The troll just made it outside, before being slowed by Midnight, Xzax's arrows, and Gunju's rush with his katana leading.

The troll in the mill took a beating, but refused to go down -- and then was given the order to go after the children by the troll king. The giant desk was flung aside, but Seamus was wounded horribly. The two remaining trolls in the tavern burst out onto Jena and Angus, with Aust bringing up support. Angus began taking a terrible beating from the trolls, and the party began to realize that in their arrogance, they had underestimated their foes.

The battle became very tense. Xzax's arrows barely slowed the troll facing Gunju, even as Midnight withdrew -- flaps of skin hanging off the poor tiger. Gunju could hold his own with the beast, but he realized that in a war of attrition, he would lose against the troll, even with Xzax's help. Inside the mill, Cleo was having difficulty battling the troll, even as N'Kara found herself unable to bring fire-power to bear -- else the mill would explode, killing the children and all the town's people within. Outside the tavern, Angus was being torn apart, even as Jena and Aust were having trouble facing the other troll. And the troll king had yet to enter the battle.

Jena, still astride her giant mount, called upon Yatindar to protect her from evil -- but the prayer was answered with feedback deep within her skull. It was at that moment that Jena decided to withdraw -- that the trolls had some sort of anti-prayer abilities. The paladin was mere seconds from calling off the entire attack, despite the children...

One of the little ones screamed, and all of the children in the cellar were in fear of their life as they faced a troll intent on culling them, despite Cleo's best efforts.

Jena's mount let off a burst of white light that staggered the trolls back, and its gray hide blazed white -- along with the white horn in its forehead. The unicorn was already there, when Aust called for it. The protection from evil was already there when Jena called for it. And at that moment, the unicorn had heard the screams of the innocent.

Going through the wall of the mill, the bonded mount was intent on destroying the troll that threatened the children, even as the troll king fled down the steps into the cellar -- trying to find a shield against his attackers.

Aust and Angus together managed to finally take down one of the trolls, and then Angus fell in battle. The unicorn knocked one of the trolls in the mill away, before entering the cellar -- giving Jena no choice but to dismount from the enormous charger.

Gunju and Xzax managed to wear their troll down, finally, and Xzax stayed to finish the job -- giving Gunju a chance to run for the mill.

The screams of the children were made manifest with Cleo's darkness, as the troll king faced off against Jena, N'Kara, Cleo, and the unicorn known as Apple Demon. The troll king had already grabbed a two-year-old, and threatened to kill it, if they did not withdraw. Cleo provoked it, hoping to sever its spine, or even bring the troll king down... The child was destroyed, and Cleo saw it with her own eyes. N'Kara smelled it. Apple Demon knew. The troll king was torn to pieces, first impaled on the horn of a unicorn, and then ripped to shreds by N'Kara -- turned into a were-tiger. Jena's glowing blue sword, Anvicard, added to the carnage -- as Gunju led the children away and out to safety.

The trolls were defeated, but at what price? Cleo, Jena, and N'Kara keenly felt their responsibility in the death of the child -- but none more so than Cleo.

The townsfolk, scared for their children, and scared of the trolls, flooded into the tavern in search of their little ones. Aust, thinking quickly, covered the three casualties with a light cloth, and told the villagers that the barmaid that had fallen, and the babe, were still alive -- merely deeply injured -- and that he would find aid for them at the Burning Sun monastery. Using the cart, once it was unloaded of food, they laid out the fallen Angus and the barmaid, even as N'Kara held the dead child to her in mourning.

Seamus, upon seeing his brother dead, had taken to his horse pushed it to reach his ship. Half broken from the troll's attack, and stunned by Angus' death, Seamus thought only to seek out the Stonehelms as fast as he could. Cleo managed to catch up with him, and using her demonic strength, subdued him. After turning Seamus over to Jena, Cleo disappeared, fleeing into the woods -- perhaps for good.

Aust, Jena, Seamus, and the fallen went back to Gridolin, hoping to stop there long enough to send more food and supplies to Kestaria, before moving on to the Burning Sun monastery. In Gridolin, however, Etre'iya Vamusa'rayeem -- Hallis Island's high priestess -- was already forewarned. She was able to raise all three casualties from the grave. In the case of the barmaid and the babe, their innocence allowed the gods to weigh in their favor. In Angus' case, however, the gods demanded sacrifice -- for Angus was a warrior, and had found death in the way of a warrior. Etre'iya's goddess was Seamus' goddess -- Habrem -- and demanded service from the Skald of the Stonehelms, in exchange for Angus' restoration.

The high preistess also informed the party that Rakore had been invaded. The Stonehelms were currently holding off against the hordes of the Ogre Nations, but in the aftermath of Davin's plague... This news rocked Seamus -- and Angus -- back on their heels. Duke Henrik, and indeed, most of Rakore's nobles, would be called upon to send aid to the Stonehelms. Seamus' duty was clear, however. All would be for naught, if Al Mudim was not destroyed.

Returning to Kestaria with wagonloads of materiel and equipment in the night, the party held a hasty war conference. The head of the village, John the Miller, recieved a writ of promise from Xzax's treasury for 50,000 silver -- enough to begin work on docks, housing for the sailors, and more. The villagers -- whom had moved away from Gridolin to escape urbanization -- seemed eager enough in the aftermath of the troll king to urbanize in their own defense.

It was still two marks until dawn on the 18th of Davor, with the party making preparations to go to the Burning Sun monastery, with a stopover in Gridolin. Their destination would let them draw out the vampire-medusa, and perhaps retrieve the Spinstone. Despite the need Rakore might have for the party, they agreed that the world needed them more.

Back to Campaign V

XP Awarded: 3,200 (total to date is 24,350)

DM's Notes: This was perhaps the most interesting session I've run for the group, so far. I have eight people sitting at the table, in addition to myself, when we usually play. Interplayer conflicts, though, were killing us even before we began. Fred had to leave, because the tension was so terrible between some of the guys. He was admittedly miffed at me, too, when I had to assign someone else to help him with his stats. This is Fred's first time, really, to play 3rd Edition (or Dungeons and Dragons at all). I have a rude streak that sometimes is far too wide for comfort, and that was the last straw for Fred -- so he had to get out.

We worried about him, but decided to go ahead with the session, anyway. It'd been too long since we'd played last, and the others were very eager to start. So was I. Perhaps I shouldn't have violated one of my own cardinal rules: We all play, or no one plays... But we were in an ideal place and spot to have Xavien (Fred's character) leave with the rest of the mages from the last session... (sigh) There's no easy answers, and things got worse, before they got better, that night.

Going into battle with the trolls, Adam kept wanting to use his Battle Tactics checks, and Philip was having trouble with Adam's interrupting him and his wife at every turn over the checks. When the two of them got to the yelling point, I had to send them both outside. I play to have fun, damn it. When interplayer conflicts are that bad, and cannot be resolved at the table, I don't like to run, play, or have anything to do with the game. I told them both they'd have to fix it, outside, or I'd kick them both out of the game.

When they came back in, they seemed to have things resolved, but I've no idea what was said. When I spoke with Fred about this, later, he suggested that we have a sit-down before we try to begin game-play. We've got to air out our odious thoughts, as it were. If the guys have problems, with each other or with me, then we need to get them out into the open. We're supposed to be friends just having a good time, playing a game with each other's company. The campaign and the story are not worth anything more than ink on paper. The friendships, though, should be worth a thousand times the books' weights in gold.

This campaign is not worth a damned to me, if I can't enjoy it with good friends. All my players are on notice. All my friends that play are on notice. There is no probationary period. Just as a husband and wife are not supposed to go to sleep without having resolved their conflicts, then we are not supposed to play without having resolved our conflicts. This will happen, and well enough to meet my expectations -- or I will quit running. I can finish off the module's notes in a single entry, and call it quits for Dungeons and Dragons, until my temper calms down. Just having to write about it is rekindling the anger I felt that night. The anger, and the confusion, that could let things become so amongst friends.

I watched "Lilo and Stitch" last night, with my wife. She loves that movie, and I like it, myself. I especially like Ohana. "Ohana means 'family'. No one gets left behind... Or forgotten," as the characters said in the Disney movie. My friends are like Ohana to me. And don't you knuckle-heads forget it!

Ah, yes -- before I forget. We had a wee lil trouble finding Xzax's character sheet. Since no one knew who had lost it -- me or Philip -- I'm letting the loss slide. Luckily, I still had a copy of the items he'd received from his grandfather's hoard.

As to Adam's samurai? The Oriental Adventurer's Handbook is out the window. After Adam, no one is going to use that thing again. It just does not mix well with the regular game. On it's own, I've no doubt that it's an excellent source -- but the systems are clashing to our continual consternation.

On the upside to all of this, I forgot that the trolls (though not the king) had a level of barbarian in each of them. If I'd remembered this, there might have been far greater casualties than there were. The king never actually got into the fray -- the only one he hit was Seamus, before taking one of the children hostage. Had the king gone out with the other trolls, the tide would have gone much differently.