Grand Duchy 122

Grand Duchy of Adventure

Session 122
May 25 - August 6, 2017

Bowl in Hand

Moldain 14th Klarmont

Have Bowl Will Travel

Griffin kneels and picks up the bowl. It is heavy and now dented, but looks whole.
Intricate designs can be seen on its surface, inside and out, though the details are obscured due to the thick layer of dust.
“Wonder if there's any other long forgotten treasure down that oh so dangerous hallway?" the greedy Wizard wonders.

"We can look," Griffin replies.

Draven interjects piously, "Perhaps it would behoove us to participate in the ritual to banish all these undead first?"

Griffin concedes, "Oh, fine."

"Priorities," Iris gasps as Remar stares longingly down the hall, not paying any of the voices he is currently hearing.

Just then Kasiex comes slinking down the tunnel. “The girl traded places with me. Said she needed some fresh air. She will let us know if any approach.

“I think we have everything we need now… except someone to do the ritual. What was the plan for that? Iris, did you bring it along with you?” Draven asks.

Iris visibly calms herself and says, “Sorry, Draven---the tome is back with Kforedz and Kifein. We need them for the ritual, but now we have the bowl, so that's something! Hopefully they'll have been able to figure out exactly how that ritual is to be performed by the time we've finished sorting out Golthar. Should we return to the roof to see if he's made an appearance?”

Remar nods in agreement.  “I agree. We can rest up and study up if necessary while we either plan how we return the bowl or continue to wait for Golthar to fall into the trap.  I've been meaning to ask Ree if she knows a spell that bestows invisibility. If so, I could fly up and survey the area to help decide which course of action is best.”

“All depends upon what we find when we leave this rabbit’s warren of tunnels, but is there aught else here we should dally for? I am thinking a quick sprint back to the fortification followed by a solid ritual to banish the undead makes sense, but only if this bowl is the thing that Golthar is after. If there’s something else those undead are defending from his predations, that ritual might be premature.”

“Perhaps a quick additional scouting, retreating if we meet serious resistance? If we can lead more of the filthy things into potential ambush of your enemy, that might prove useful.  Then we ascend, rest, and wait for the trap to spring.” Kasiex pauses, musing. “Perhaps we might first escort Remar to the roof with the Bowl, that he might take to the sky and return the artifact to Kforedz and remove it from the potential grasp of the Yellow One?”

Remar strokes his bearded chin considering Kasiex’s later option.  “It could work. Rough estimation that includes rest in between since I will get tuckered out along the way many times...I’d say it would take me around two-and-a-half hours to get back to Byxata.  Pushing to that time may also leave me a bit vulnerable magic-wise since I’ll be running to near empty along the way. Maybe three hours would be a fairer estimate and leave me with enough energy to try and adapt to, ummm...”

Feckin’ Manticores, witches, an’ wizards!

He continues, “Yeah, thanks!  Emergent unaccounted for conditions.”

“That means that if something---heavens forbid---went wrong, that we wouldn't even begin to investigate for six hours. Are you okay with that, Remar? And what do you think of this plan, Griffin?” Iris asks.

While Griffin formulates an answer, the Alphatian suggests everyone head back up top to reunite with Ree.

Here, Kitty Kitty

The Grey Company forgoes exploring the rest of the narrow and dark secret passageway, though Iris looks longingly over her shoulder the entire way back out. The Company and companion Hutaakan make their way back up to the top of the temple. As they exit from behind the protective cover of Griffin’s cloak, the are temporarily blinded by the sun staring down on them. Ree sits comfortably against a nearby rock, watching Ronkan from a distance. “Still no real activity from the village or that yellow robed bastard,” she comments. Everyone looks for a spot to sit, and Griffin inadvertently takes the spot that Iris was getting ready to claim. A disgusted look crosses Iris’s face and she begins to chide Griffin like the commoner he is, but lets it slide and finds another spot nearby.

The bowl is produced and shown to Ree, whose eyes light up but then everyone's attention is pulled to Kasiex who is leaning over and emitting a low rumble of a growl toward an outcropping of rock. A dirty, wild-haired cat of some kind is perched there, hair raised and hissing back at the Wildsteward.
The low rumble crests into a full-on snarl, and the Hutaakan’s hands flash to the quiver at his back, drawing an arrow with blinding speed.  His bow rises at the same instant, and an arrow lances forth into the hissing feline before him.

The feline squeals and jumps into the air, trying to flee, but then falls on its side in the rubble atop the temple. It breathes heavily for a moment then lies still.

The scout’s snarl fades into satisfied silence as the creature passes. “Filthy things…”

Remar, watching this, breaths an overly dramatic sigh of relief.  Gesturing toward the warm corpse he says, “Wooo, thank you mighty Kasiex.  Really saved our skins there with that one.” He flashes the Jackleman a sly smile and a wink that he without thinking assumes conveys he’s kidding in Hutaakan body language.

Given all da previous communications ye mucked-up, ye should probably start preparin’ some counter-reaction spells ‘boot now.  What ‘f ye just initiated him to some sort ‘o manhood challenge ye dolt.

Oh, uh...I never thought of that.

The Wizard freezes, his smile slowly fades, and he now tensely awaits the Wildsteward’s reaction.

Hope he has a sense of humor.  Remar muses.

Kasiex turns his head to face Remar, the metal surface of his armored mask disguising much of his expression. He stills, then his head cocks to one side. “Saved? You have a fear of the creatures?”

“Uhhhh,” Remar starts to respond.  Oh well great. Now I can’t tell if he’s messing with me back.  Better be safe rather than sorry, I guess. “Yes. Thank you. That was a dog, right?  Just can’t trust what a dog will do next, all biting the hand that feeds them, surrounding you in packs, and all that…”

“You're on your own this time, Remar,” Iris says snidely. Allowing him to fend for himself might encourage him to take more care with his words next time, she thinks to herself.

Drawing a breath to reply, he pauses as Iris speaks.  Clearly, he’s missed something. The bookish youth is clearly hopeless at identification of wildlife, but Iris reply...surely the spellcaster was not mocking him? A very faint rumble vibrates from his chest and fades as he considers the possibility.  “No doubt you could identify the ink in the scrolls of the records below, but your beast knowledge needs work, scholar. That was…” he speaks a word in Hutaakani, then pauses. “Cat-of-the-slopes”? I don’t know your words for this. Stealthy, but territorial.  They sneak upon intruders and...ugh…Like a skunk, yes? Spray. The stench lingers for WEEKS! Best to slay them quickly, before they get the chance.”

“Of, of course.” Remar nods in half-serious, half-feigned acknowledgement and understanding.  Feewwww, that was a close one. If anything, I think my Hutaakan knowledge needs work!

“That settled, it looks like we’ve got some time left on our hands. Dare we risk sending Remar away for a few hours to both secure the bowl and allow them to begin the rituals needed to make use of it?”

Remar adds, “Does anyone of us here have a way to send a magical message to Kifein or even Marcel and Steven so they can relay and bring everyone needed here?”

“Well I know I can’t get there as fast as you can,” Ree says to Remar, “but I can do it all the same. Kforedz and Kifein said they would need to perform the ritual here in the temple, but that can’t happen if those nasty Ghouls are still in there. I know we’re waiting for that asshole Golthar to show up and battle with the Ghouls, but it doesn’t seem like he is all to interested in leaving Ronkan right now.” She turns and looks toward the Traldar village a mile or so away. “I don’t know, I’m just getting impatient sittin up here waiting, doing nothing. I need to do something! Fly back to Byxata, go down below and explore some more, take the fight to those Ghouls or even to the Yellow Wizard himself. Something.”

The Day Drags On

The day goes on, uneventfully. No extraordinary activity is seen from the nearby Traldar enclave of Ronkan. Occasional guards can be seen atop the walls and smoke fires continue to be visible but no one comes or goes from the village and the fields lay untended. In the distance, the occasional undead can be seen lurking about, but none approach the village or the temple. The sun finally starts its descent toward the distant horizon and Remar allows the magical protections against heat to dissipate. The bright stars of the Karamekian sky can be seen past the light clouds and the nearly full moon lights up the surrounding countryside. More undead can be seen shambling about but again, none of them approach the temple or village.

“Why do the creatures not attack the village? If they hunger, would their appetite not draw them to so great a concentration of prey? Perhaps the wizard repels them somehow? A good trick, if we could learn it.”

Griffin shrugs. “Alas, good Kasiex, such questions are not for me. Perhaps a priest or mage could answer you.” Griffin arranges watches for the night and turns in, arranging to take the last watch before morning.

“Should I put up a mist?” Remar asks.  “It may be dark enough that it wouldn't be seen from all around, but if it is seen and anything comes to investigate, generally, they'll just get lost in it until I remove it or they lose interest.  Same as usual.”

Nytdain 15 Klarmont

Ree and the Bowl are Gone

Remar puts up a mist and the Company beds down for the night. Griffin is able to fall asleep easily this night and everyone rests comfortably despite their rocky perch. The entire camp, including Griffin, is wakened in the early dawn light of morning by an ear-splitting squawk that rips through the mist shrouded camp. As everyone rubs their eyes and wakes up, Griffin realizes that Ree never woke him for his watch. He glances around and does not see her anywhere. Across the camp, he spies Draven rummaging through his gear. “The bowl is gone,” the priest calls out, worry in his voice.

Kasiex rolls to his feet, shaking himself nose to tail-tip. “Hold!” he cries softly to the others “Do not disturb the area while I check for tracks. If she left of her own volition, or was taken.” Suiting deed to word, the Wildsteward begins examining the camp and surrounding area with keen eye and keener nose.

Alarmed by the noise and seeing flashes of the various Manticore surprise encounters before his eyes, Remar shoots up and is already working magic to redo the magical protections he previously had in place on himself.  “Before you do that, Kasiex, is that the sound of something swooping down on us that we should be more worried about taking care of first?”

Looking around, no one can seen the source of the loud squawk . In this early morning hour, only the occasional chirping of small birds can now be heard, and nothing seems to be moving nearby. Then a low scratching or dragging sound can be heard from down below, at the base of the temple.

Griffin looks over the edge of the parapet to see what is making the scratching noise at the base of the temple.

“It is a Nekhbet, ...a Bloodhawk. Very aggressive. Large hawk bird. Often in flocks. Usually keep to the high mountain peaks surrounding the valley. They are known to attack people and will even continue attacking once they have no chance of winning.”  Kasiex falls silent, joining Griffin in listening to the scratching.

Heeding the implied warning concerning the...bloodhawk, the Wizard keeps a bolt at the ready and searches the sky and surrounding area.

Warning given, Kasiex continues his tracking efforts, silently suspecting he will confirm that the elfess left of her own volition.

Remar watches the skies but sees no bloodhawk, or birds of any type nearby. The others, peering over the edge of the temple roof see a long, segmented, worm-like creature with waving tentacles moving about on top of one of the bodies of the previously slain undead. A Carrion Crawler, as they are known. A touch from one of their tentacles can cause paralysis and they are know to eat dead things, hence their name. The creature is nearly 10 feet long and probably weighs well over 400lbs. It is vile and disgusting though it is making no indications that it plans to climb the temple wall to harass the Company. It looks more than content to devour the undead remains below.
The Grey Company watches the carrion crawler devour the undead corpse below for what seems like a week or more. Finally, the 10 foot long scavenger finishes its meal and moves on, scurrying along past the main entrance to the temple then disappearing in the rocks and rubble scattered throughout the plaza.

The sun slowly climbs into the sky and it feels like it is going to be a beautiful day. A cool breeze brings the smell of wildflowers and the sun gently warms all surfaces it touches. The cook fires of nearby Ronkan can be seen as the Traldar village wakes up and gets on with its day. This morning, the usual workers can be seen heading out to tend the fields and it appears to be a day just like any other.

“Patience is a hunters virtue, but we stand on a monument to the history of my people. Let us descend, and hunt the dark things below.  Or, let us go to yon town and solve your wizard problem with many sharp-tipped arrows from the dark. What say you?”

Remar shrugs at the mention of either option and looks again to his leaders, Griffin and Draven, for a decision on what they should do now, since it appears Ree and the bowl are missing.  To help in that effect he adds, “Kasiex, now that the crawler is gone, can you confirm if Ree left with the bowl or if she and the bowl were taken.”

A careful examination of the camp area reveals that all of Ree’s gear is gone as well. There are no signs of anyone or thing having been in the camp. All signs point to Ree giving in to her impulsivity and need for action and taking the bowl and flying back to Byxata with it.

Company Is On the Way

After many hours of nothing but waiting on the temple rooftop, there is finally some activity from Ronkan worth noting. Griffin and Draven both, nearly simultaneously, call for everyone to take notice. The nearest gates have opened up and a good sized group of people come out, heading toward the temple. As they get closer it looks like most of the group is made up of Traldar warriors, all on foot, accompanied by a handful of Gnolls of the Death’s Head and several Iron Ring Hounds. There is also an Ogre from the Death’s Head Tribe as well. The group is clearly making its way toward the temple and should arrive within half an hour or so.

Iris crouches down further in her stance and says, “Well, this is what we've been waiting for, right, gents?”

“I think so,” Remar says.  “Should we just hang tight, stay quiet, let them head in, and wait while the unliving inside thrash them?”

Dat?  Sure. ‘r we could burn dem ‘ll wit a boomin’ ball ‘o fire in da arse just after day go in...

After the briefest of pauses, the unbalanced Mage exclaims, “No; we can’t just do that!  The Traldar there are with them. They’re likely being forced, coerced, or tricked!”

Iris allows the smallest of sighs to escape her lips, then says, “Oookay, what do you suggest? Picking off everyone but the Traldar from range? Do they have any archers or mages?” Squinting in the early light, she peers past her companions to get a better look.

“Now you wish haste…? An ambush, then? I would counsel patience and sticking with the the lure and trap, my friend.” The Hutaaka shifts to let Iris examine the oncoming party of foes.

Through squinting eyes, Iris sees that many of those marching carry either bows or spears though she does not see any she would guess to be mages.

Remar grits his teeth.  “It’s not like I’m a pacifist per say; an enemy marching knowingly against me is my enemy on the battlefield, but I never like the idea of killing slave-soldiers.  I also remember that some of Golthar’s retinue are subjugated past the point of no return. Those Iron Ring warriors there, may be of that ilk.” His eyes unfocus for a moment before adding, “Unfortunately, sometimes even slaves don’t want to be saved.”

The former Artillery Wizard frames his hand across his forehead over his eyes and squints.  “Can anyone else see if the Traldar are jovially going along with this, or if they appear to be subjugated?  I’m hoping the latter. We’d do well to plan out some scenarios covering how we could free the Traldar and turn them against Golthar and his remaining forces.  Best to have allies rather than enemies on all sides, eh?”

As the procession from Ronkan reaches about halfway they are close enough to start reading body language and marching orders. Remar studies the group, trying to figure out if the Traldar are there willingly or otherwise. After watching the group for a moment, he is mostly unsure about the motivations of the Traldar, though he does note that they are mostly place toward the front and middle of the group, flanked by the Gnolls and Iron Ring warriors. If they were there by not completely free-willed choice, Remar could see that this marching formation would be meant to keep the Traldar moving forward and more in the line of danger as well.

Gritting his teeth hard once again, Remar says, “See their formation?  It’s indicative of a forced-army. Those on the outsides and to the rear keep the inner and frontal formation pincered, force-marched forward, and all around in-check while ensuring that the front and center portion is the most vulnerable to incoming attacks.  Even our brief experience with the Traldar show they prefer other formations, given the lay of the land and their familiarity with it. Do you agree, Kassiex?”

Iris presses her lips together into a fine line and says quietly, “Alright then. No offense meant to you, Kasiex, but the Traldar are likely to view us as foes if they see you. I'm guessing we won't have time to convince them otherwise, so it might be best if you find a way to help from hiding so that we don't run into that snag. Additionally, there are bowmen and spearmen, so that's less than ideal, but I would think we're at an advantage on the roof here. I believe our most difficult challenge will be in communicating to the Traldar that we are friendly to them. Any novel ideas?”

“My first thought would be to target Golthar with whatever we have, but I don’t see him with them. Makes me think this is a feint or some sort of testing action. He may be elsewhere, possibly with the traitorous Ariadne.”

“Perhaps he knows the evil that lurks beneath us, and sends these vile servants to clear his path for him?” Kasiex growls softly at the array of invaders approaching their position.

Griffin ponders this. “Hmmm, that could certainly make things easier for us.”

“Servants some vile, and other unredeemable, yes’” Remar replies as he scratched his beard in thought.  “But the Traldar are neither. Kassiex, I get the past you have with the Traldar stings. But if nothing else for now, think of it this way, you have a finite number of arrows, right?  Focusing on the others as enemies, and leaving the Traldar out of it at least saves you ammo.

“Now, how do we do that in a way that doesn't also get them killed by their captors?”

Mind control dem 'll 't once?  Hide’m 'n mass?

What?  Are you just rubbing it in now Malthius?  Lording over me with all your past repertoire? You know I haven't had time yet to master those spells.

Rip da souls outta da enemieseh wait dat ones indiscriminate...

You bastard!

Oh, still stings, eh Rema?  Too soon? We'll,, guess ye'll just have ta cover 't back up 'gain.

...wait, that's it!

What’s 't?

The Wizard perks up and asks, “In addition to me shielding you all from missile volleys, what about if I create a teary, choking, cloudy mass amongst them?  A smoke screen when they reach a range we’re comfortable with? It'd have a chance to immobilize a lot of the Traldar making them ineffective for a little while, and hopefully removing them from contention until we can liberate them.  The smoke will also block sight, so them shooting us or us shooting them would be more difficult. Closing in with them before those unaffected by the choking should scatter would subject you to the same uncomfortable conditions. This should also disrupt their formation and break their ranks.  I may be able to cover more than just the Traldar with it if you want. It may be effective against the others; not sure about an ogre, though. If I do that, that'd probably be about it for magic from me other than Bolts.”

Yer welcome.

Kasiex huffs and gives himself a small shake.  “I suppose the outsiders are the least of our concerns, blind and deaf in the wilds as they are.  I’ll save my arrows for the Ogre, Gnolls, and hounds. Hidden, so I don’t disturb your Traldar friends.” Behind his mask, the Hutaakan’s lip curls to reveal a pearly white fang.

Griffin purses his lips. “I thought the whole point was for Golthar’s forces to attack the enemies in the temple. If we attack them first, how will that happen? Or does the fact that they are using Traldar conscripts change our plan as we don’t want them to suffer the brunt of their battle with the demons inside?”

Iris looks pointedly at Remar at the conclusion of Griffin's last question and nods. “It does feel cold-hearted to leave the Traldar to the same fate as Golthar's regular retinue. Maybe there's a way we can use Remar's smoke screen within the temple? That way we don't tip off Golthar to our presence here.” She shakes her head in negation as she murmurs, “I just can't bring myself to believe that Ree would bring the bowl to him; I choose to believe she's brought it back to Kifein.”

Griffin growls, “A not unreasonable conclusion.” He pauses. “Except that she stole it in the middle of the night and slipped off without telling anyone. Why do that?”

“Fine. Maybe she hasn’t betrayed us. Maybe she’s just incredibly stupid.” He sighs, sadly. “Unless there’s more to it, she’s just demonstrated that she doesn’t give a whit about the rest of us. She’s not trustworthy, and should not be someone I, er we, rely on.”

The Alphatian looks uncomfortable given all the recent situational topsy-turviness and how hurt he knows his friend is in feeling betrayed.  In an attempt to refocus everyone on the situation at hand he asks, “Let’s brainstorm real quick.”

Griffin gives his head a quick shake, as if to get his mind off Ree and back to the situation at hand. “Good idea, Remar. Let’s focus on the here and knowhow can we keep to our plan in light of the Traldar troops?”

Setting A Trap

Remar continues, “What about if we go back down that shaft and plan the smoke and ambush of them from the door that connects back to the main chamber?  We all remember from our previous...encounter in there that once they enter the temple, they’ll have to cross the antechamber and then they’re in the nave with the fiery-wreathed pit.  We’d be at the door to the right of the altar, hoping that they head to the left where the deadlier uglies last awaited us.”

He casts his mind back to the exploration they had done before. “I like your plan. How quickly can we get ourselves in position? They’ll be here soon. Also, if we could keep someone out here to monitor their approach, that would be good. Maybe stay here until it looks like they’re going to get through the door, then head on down?” His mind on the plan, he looks around. “Ree could stand watch… Oh, shit. Forget I said that” He looks like there’s a bad taste in his mouth. “Anyway, You could stay behindyou can fly yourself quickly to our new location right? Or I could, if you want to conserve your magic.”

Remar thinks.  Conserving magic is always good, but giving Griffin something for us to rely on is better; it’s what keeps him focused and driven.  Probably just what we all need right now given…

“Aye, Griffin, conserving magic is a priority here.  Plus you are probably better at keeping yourself out of sight than I am.  It’ll probably be tight though.”

“Right. Well, then, I guess you guys should get going. Here’s a rope to use if you need it to let yourselves down. I’ll keep an eye on things here.”

“Right-o,” says Remar.  “But first let me set a protection on you against missiles just in case.” Remar whispers words of power and set the spell.

“Everyone else, I can hold that protection on you as well, but each person here out makes it more difficult for me to use magic.   Let me know if it's critical to also be protected from missiles and I'll enspell you as well. Ultimately, I want to be able to follow our rough plan and smoke them up if still needed.”

Griffin watches the group from Ronkan continue their approach. When they are about 100 yards from the temple doors, they stop again. It appears that the Traldar are balking at coming any closer. The Iron Ring and Gnolls start prodding them forward and within a moment, the column is on the move again. The group is on alert with weapons at the ready. The Gnolls move away from the group a bit, scouting the area surrounding the path leading up but not moving more than 5-10 yards from the group.
gda122a.jpgEveryone hurries down into the ruined Temple. Draven uses his magical boots and Iris uses a newly learned spell to slowly drift safely down to the bottom. Kasiex and Remar both use the offered rope. The group then heads north to the closed double doors that they assume lead back out to the main temple room but that had actually never been checked out. Remar cautiously touches the door to see if it is hot but he cannot sense any heat there, probably due to the Resist Fire spell he has cast on himself. Kasiex touches the door and says it is not hot. The temple is quiet and still.

Kasiex moves with quiet caution to flank the door, readying his bow and knocking an arrow. “Waiting...always the most difficult part.” he whispers to his companions.

Cast of Characters: 

Garrett "Griffin" Constantine, a Thyatian rogue of a gambler from Penhaligon rolled by Arne J 

Draven Rickart, a Thyatian Acolyte of the Church of Karameikos ministered by Jason P

Remar Umerusan Alphatian battle mage that escaped forced service in the Thyatian army currently marshalled by Patrick K

Iris Vardaa Thyatian explorer and historian searching for answers and adventure, now guided by Stephanie K

Kasiex, a Hutaakan Wildsteward used to ranging the mountains and valleys now led down a new path by Patrick B

and Jason W as The DM