Grand Duchy 20

Grand Duchy of Adventure

Session 20
June 4th - 30th, 2014

Scouting the Wolfskull Lair

Soladain 24 of Thaumont, 1001AC

The immediate surroundings

Checking the Perimeter

wolfskull totem.jpg
Wolkfskull Totem

Remar, Marcel and Draven find themselves a good hiding spot to rest while Griffin skulks off to see what he can find out about the Goblin’s lair. This part of the petrified forest, down at what seems to be the base of the valley, has fewer trees, though there are quite a few very large broken tree trunks. These trees are very big, and were probably very old at the time the forest was petrified. It seems as if the rain has slowed some, possibly even stopped, though it is still quite chilly and plenty of water still drips intermittently from the stony canopy above. 

As Griffin makes his way toward the compound, he sees something near the path that assures him that they are in fact at the Wolfskull Goblin lair, a decorated wolf skull mounted on a pole.
As he gets closer to the compound, he sees that the direct approach has been cleared quite a bit. It looks like he might be able to get a decent approach from the northern edge, though the dark, swift rushing stream is in the way.
Griffin works his way through the stone trees towards the Wolfskull Lair.  Fortunately, the petrified forest yields a myriad of hiding places, and he takes his time.  As he moves, he tries to keep an eye out for other possible approaches to the lair.  He ranges east and west, even venturing to climb a tree or two.  He ventures down to the river on the east side near where the walls come close to the water.  Maybe they could sneak up more easily through the stream if it were shallow enough.
Of course, there was no telling how many gobbos were inside. Maybe they could lure some out. They still had the wolf cloaks. What if the guards heard someone cry out in pain and saw one of their own collapsed in the middle of the trail? It was cleared out down near the bridge, but up the hill it looked like there were some potential ambush sites. Hmm...
Griffin finds that it is quite difficult to get much closer. At best he can see where the “walls” of the strong hold turn corners and he catches a glimpse of what appears to be a second structure on the island to the south. The Goblins chose the location for the lair quite well, the whole area is filled with large patches of petrified bushes and brambles, some up to 5 yards tall and over 10 yards long. These rocky brambles prove to be completely impassable, though Griffin thinks he might be able to climb them, probably with a great cost to his hands and other lightly armored places.
Meanwhile, Draven, Remar and Marcel crouch in the shadows trying to regain their breath. After about an hour and a half, Griffin returns and tells them what little information he has been able to find out.
“I was thinking while I was checking things out.  We did pretty good against that last patrol.  Do you think maybe we could use the gobbo wolf cloaks to lure out another small batch?  No telling how many of the vermin are in that place - if we try a frontal assault we’re likely to get swarmed.  Not how I want the Saga of Griffin to end, really.
“No, even if we had the other three with us, a frontal assault seems like a bad idea. Not that going through the front door has to be an assault, if you see what I mean. Think we could get close enough to the entry without being seen to sneak in?”

From a distance, the entrance to the Wolfskull’s lair looks like a cave mouth found inside an even larger cavern. The whole petrified forest seems to resemble a huge above ground cavern system. The darkened cavern mouth is flanked by several torches and the entire entry way is lit up as brightly as can be. One dire wolf can be seen sleeping just inside the entrance. The stronghold entrance appears to go through one of the large, hollowed out tree stumps. The front facing of the tree has been carved away to make an entry way and the inside is wide and hollow. It seems to lead in and to the left, out of line of sight, though those areas too must be torch lit as no dark areas are visible. Any more intel on the lair will require a closer inspection.
“Well, we’re at the crossroad between finesse and surprise.” He slips through the stony landscape to get a glimpse of the lair. “If we’re to fight them, I’d rather do it in a hallway since we’re outnumbered.“ 
Taking on the lair seemed to make sense only if there was a chance to retrieve Stephan. Then again, Marcel questioned his motivation for doing so. Yes, killing goblins is a reflex that doesn’t requires a lot supplementary motivation to jump in. However, he never had entered a lair with anything less than a full-sized company. He feels a little uncomfortable on his ability to ensure the safety of his friends in such an unpredictable place. 

A Spiritual Moment

“Draven, I’m not at peace right now. I think that I need solace. I am uncomfortable with the slaying of the prisoners and I fear that this will weigh on me in future trials. Can your gods appease this turmoil?”
Marcel is highly superstitious: he believes that if he is not a peace with himself, bad things will happen at the most inappropriate time. No need for a crystal ball to predict such times in the near future.
Draven looks nonplussed for a minute, not expecting such a thing from the young mercenary. He pauses very briefly, takes a deep breath and considers Marcel’s words.
“You’re a good man, Marcel, far stronger of heart than most who carry arms for hire. The gods sometimes test us, and those who have the harder time finding their answers are those who truly come out of those tests in the right.”
“Whatever you might think of Thyatians, even before we shared this land, Traladarans have suffered mightily under the swords and spears of subhuman monsters. The history of this land is one of regular hardship, more often than not caused by goblins and their kin. That alone would give you perfect reason for dispatching our prisoners back there. But in this case, not only did we give them the chance to help us in exchange for their lives - an offer which they rebuffed as you’d expect from a soulless monster - but when they did the gods saw fit to grant us the boon of their gifts in loosening the tongue of their leader. If we were so far in the wrong, would they have been so gracious to us?”
“Pray with me now, Marcel. Come aside, into the quiet, and tell me all of what burdens your heart. The Immortals grant solace to those that admit their faults and strive to rectify them. I can offer you their absolution.”
He looks to Remar and Griffin as well. “This is a gift I will offer you all, if you so choose. No man should go into danger with his heart heavy, or his soul in torment.”
Remar felt conflicted. Being a former slave himself, he saw that the prisoners’ decision to reject freedom as irrational. But that did not make their actions completely right. Sighing slowly, the mage puts his hand on Draven’s shoulder and nods. “I don’t see a reason to not share this gift.”
Draven makes what good he can of the space they have to themselves and listens to each of the men in turn as they tell their brief tales and provides them with the blessings that the church allows. Hopefully, this eases their spirits and releases their burdens some.
Griffin stands silent, not sure how he feels about this himself.  Killing prisoners feels wrong, but killing gobbos feels right.  He keeps his own council.
Seeing that Griffin is not yet ready, he approaches him last and offers “when the time is right, you will know. And the gods will be there for you. They have an infinite capacity for patience and care for every one of us. They’ll guide your righteous hands whether you’re ready to share your mind with them directly or no.” He finishes with what he hopes is a friendly, welcoming smile, all but aglow in his own personal faith.
As all this soul searching and ministering occurs, the loud sound of a dire wolf’s bark brings everyone’s focus back to the task at hand. Peeking through the rocky tree trunks, Marcel can see four dire wolves with Goblin mounts heading out of the lair. After crossing the wide log bridge at the entrance, they break into a run, heading up along the path that leads from the lair. One of the wolves slows and tries to stop as it passes near where the Grey Company previously left the trail, but the Goblin rider urges it forward with the other three.
Marcel makes a best effort to pray phonetically in Thyatian in hope that it would register with some higher being. Are they listening to a Traladaran? While he is struggling to convince himself to feel better, he notices the patrol leaving the lair. The goblin distracts the wolf from the Company’s scent. “The gods have spoken”, he thinks to himself. 
“Draven, thanks.”, he says in a half-voice then pauses, “He received counsel while you guided me. These Gobs must go. Stephan and the others need us. We are the hand of the gods here. We must act.” 
Four have gone out and will come back. We can barge in while they are not there, or wait in ambush for their return. 
“I think that we should bleed them for as long as they are willing to trickle out. I propose to wait for their return and ambush them then. If more come out in force, we split into a rabbit force to draw them far and a agile force to slip in and retrieve the prisoners. The rabbits need not to be large, but dragging the horses away would be sufficient. Hopefully, we won’t need to split. ”

“That is my call unless someone can convince me that we can just barge in and achieve as well by brute force.”

“While I will never shirk from the duty, it seems smarter to find a way to whittle them down, or at least pull them out of their nest and reduce their advantage.” Turning to Remar he asks, “do you have any tricks up your sleeve that might qualify as flashy? I can summon those thunderbolts, and can wrack them with sound - it might even reverberate around in the enclosed spaces of their den - and can call on the voice of the gods when I need to be heard at great distances, but short of pretending to be one of their gods or some other angry immortal, I’m not sure how to capitalize on that…”
“Yea, if we can find a way to lure another bunch out, we could have a nice surprise waiting for those ones that just left.  If you arcane-types can’t come up with something, we can always fall back on dressing Remar up in a wolf cloak.”
“Or I can go poke around more, see if I can find a way across and behind…”
As the Goblins and their mounts disappear up the trail, it is noted that the hour is probably well after noon and any type of action will have to happen soon or camp will have to be set within the petrified forest with no camping supplies or food, and with the scarcity of actual animals nearby, it may be difficult to find food.
“I hope you’re joking Griffin. As much as I always enjoy the occasional thought of being the alpha of a tribe of wolves, in another life, I’d rather not be one in this life. As much a farce at it is.” 
He ponders the situation, his spellbook in hand. He motions in the air with his hand, “I could always conjure some fire, but maybe brute force isn’t quite what we’d like here.” Bringing his hand to his chin and closing his book, Remar mutters to himself. He then goes to take a look at the lair again. “Scaring them is always an option, but I’ll have to get relatively close and also use a fair bit of my strength in the process. If I’m successful, though, I can cause enough of a ruckus to grant all of you an ample distraction.” He looks to his comrades, “How does that sound?”

A Way In?

As Griffin and Remar discuss possible approaches, Draven squints his eyes in the strange shadowy daylight and points toward the lair, up near the top where the “roof” of the lair meets the “ceiling” of the canopy. “That looks like a hole there, and there,” the Acolyte points to a few places that appear to have good sized spaces. “I wonder if there might be a way to get up into the canopy above the lair. Maybe there’s a way in from there.” 
Following Draven’s pointing finger, Griffin examines the possible flaws in the lair’s defenses.  “Good eye, Draven.  I’m pretty sure I can get up there.  Can you guys get up if I drop a rope?”
“I think we can get down to the river on that side without them seeing us if we’re careful.  Then slide across and up we go!”

“I could always grant some of us Flight. Is that something you would like me to do?” The mage motions over to the spot Draven pointed out.
“Whoa!  You can do that?  Fantastic!  Let’s all fly over to the roof and check around for Stephan and any other prisoners.  We secure that area and then work to clear the rest of the complex.  Total air superiority - I’ve only read about such things in books!  This is going to be awesome!”
Giving the Wolfskull lair a wide berth, the Grey Company maneuvers itself out and away, making for a spot a bit upstream from the entrance. The small stream is still quite wide here and swift moving, no other spots have been seen anywhere for an easy crossing. Either there are just no good natural spots to cross, or the Goblins have made sure of it themselves.
The water here is about 6 yards across. The water is dark and swift. The rain has picked back up again, ensuring that everyone, even those that might not enter the stream, will be soaked to the bone. The Goblin lair cannot be seen from here at all and the forest is thicker but hopefully there is a path through the closely packed stone trees.
Surveying the situation, Draven makes a face. “I’m a city boy, and my swimming is rudimentary at best. Any of you better in the water? I’m wondering if it doesn’t make sense to have someone go across with a rope or something to help guide those of us who’re less well equipped to make the fording.”
“Griffin, can you hop over to the other side and fasten a rope to a tree over there.”, he points to a nearby robust stump. “We should be able to get across with 1-2 ropes in relative silence.”
Griffin takes out his rope, and, tying one end to himself and handing the other to the strapping soldier, makes his way carefully into the swirling waters of the river.  “Here Marcel.  Just play it out slowly as I cross.  This should be enough.  Once I get to the other side, I’ll make it fast and you can belay Remar and Draven.  Then tie it on yourself and the three of us can bring you across.”
Marcel looks down in the stream and kick a pebble into its depth. “You think that this water is safe?”
Marcel closely inspect the stream bed for evidence (or lack-thereof) of life.

Something Fishy Going On Here

The water is swift and cold, Griffin shivers as he steps down into the water. Marcel looks around and sees no signs of life on the riverbank, though he does see some small bits of vegetation growing beneath the surface of the water, similar to the moss and vines seen growing elsewhere in this otherwise lifeless forest.
The stream proves to be quite deep for its narrow width and within a few steps, Griffin’s feet have lost contact with the stream bed. Desperately, he kicks his legs and paddles his arms, trying to keep his head above water and moving for the far bank. The current tries to push him away from the Goblin lair but the rope helps keep him from being washed away.
Draven, no strong swimmer himself, frets and prays, knowing that he’d be in no better shape.
The young Thyatian manages to keep his head above water on his way across the stream, though he is being pushed downstream quite a bit. About halfway across the water, though, something happens. What he first thought was just the the water buffeting him turns out to be something more. Griffin feels a sharp pain, as if something were biting him under the water and he is surrounded by a shoal of small, biting fish!
Bad Fish!
From the shore, it seems as if Griffin has suddenly found some trouble. As he swims, he begins to call out, confused at first, then in pain. The dark water around him becomes turbulent and several small fish can be seen coming to the surface or even leaping out short distances. Even from the bank, it is easy to spot the wide mouths and sharp teeth of these aquatic predators.
“Haul him back! By all the gods, get him out of the deeps!” Draven puts his shoulders into it, urging the others to haul on the rope and bring Griffin to safety.
Marcel tugs on the rope softly by firmly to get Griffin off to the wrong bank without him letting go. Pulling his knife, he prepares to shave off the fishes that refuse to let go.
The mage barely takes a moment to think before sensing the words of a spell under his breath. Feeling the spell begin to take action, he yells out to his comrades, “I got him! Deal with the creatures.” With his magic, he begins to lift Griffin from the waters and onto the shore as quickly as possible.
As Draven and Marcel begin to pull Griffin back, they stop and stare with surprise as their friend begins to rise up and out of the water. Several of the small biting fish attempt to hold on but quickly fall off and plop back into the water. 
Marcel has not had a shave in a while
Griffin floats over and is safely deposited on the far bank. He waves to his companions then stops and grabs at his armor, shaking and wiggling frantically. Another fish falls out and flops on the wet bank before he gives it a kick back into the dark water. 

Looking over to his friends he shrugs his shoulders as if to say "Now what?"

Over the River

Remar tells the two of his comrades on the bank beside him that, while it may cost him his strength for a fair while, he can safely get the two of them across. Trying to perform the same magic that he had on Griffin, he is happy to see the effects of his magic take hold on both of his friends. With the ability to levitate his friends, Remar propels both Marcel and Draven across to the far bank.

Marcel barely holds a nervous “I’m a wizard!” as his body lifts off the ground. Griffin questions why he had to do it the hard way.

Griffin sees that Remar is barely conscious, so he readies his crossbow to defend his comrade as he sits alone on the far bank.  He helps Draven and Marcel find a secure location.  “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, guys.”  Then he starts trying to bind his wounds.

On the verge of collapse, the mage lies down on the wilderness floor. Rummaging through his possessions for rations or something to eat, Remar takes his time to try and recover his strength. “It’s alright, boys! Just need a few minutes to breathe. Maybe half an hour.”

“Guh, half an hour.” Marcel kicks the pebbles, gently.

Some time passes uneventfully, though there are a few wolf howls and barks are heard. Eventually Remar has recovered enough energy to try again.

Feeling a little rested, Remar pulls himself up and tries to propel himself across the river. Remar’s grip on his magic felt strong and he soon found himself across the river and with his comrades. “Alright. What’s the plan now? I’m a little fatigued, but I can help out.”

“Okay, while Remar is resting, I’ll go scout out how things look on this side of the river.  Maybe I can find a way over that tributary between us and the lair so we don’t have to play with the fishies again.”

Marcel is looking for a way to climb up to the canopy in case that there is a way to the lair.

Remar and Draven rest while Griffin scouts and Marcel climbs up a nearby petrified tree. Marcel finds that it might be possible to move across areas on the canopy, though from here, there are many gaps and it would be difficult to make it over to the Goblin lair. Climbing up closer should produce better results though.

After a short time, Griffin returns from his scouting mission and reports that he was able to find a way across the stream to a spot just behind the lair.

With everyone rested, he leads the way to a fallen stone tree that spans almost all the way across the smaller tributary. The main part of the Wolfskull lair sits not far away across yet another stream, but here, on a little island is a smaller part of the lair, seemingly connected by a large hollowed out tree trunk bridge.

“We will do well to get to the other side of that wall - I have some hope that they’re keeping the prisoners in there, well away from the rest of the encampment.”

Around the back side of the lair there is only about 3-5 yards worth of flat land. Around to the north, a large petrified tree blocks passage, but it looks like it provides enough handholds that it could be climbed around to get up to the covered log bridge. To the west, the strip of land widens but is filled up with stony bushes and brambles, making potential movement difficult but possibly providing a boost up to the canopy above.
Behind the lair

Going Up

Griffin shrugs. “Well, we’re burning daylight.  I’ll head up and see what I can see from above. If you want to rest, I can check out the bridge-log thing in a bit, or you could take a look.” With that, Griffin starts climbing.

The young Thyatian scrambles easily up the exterior “wall” of the Goblin lair and disappears into a small space up above. After a moment of grunting and scraping sounds, Griffin calls back down as quietly as he can that he is in a narrow crawl space within the canopy itself.

“Can you send down a rope? I’m no great shakes as a climber, but will shin up there if I have to…”

Griffin struggles and moves back out of the crawl space.  He looks around and finds a safe place to tie his rope, then drops the line down the side of the lair. He signs that the rest should come on up, then turns back to the crawl space.  Maybe he can find a view into the lair’s interior.  

Using the rope for assistance, Draven slowly pulls himself up to the crawlspace. “Thanks,” he says to Griffin as he moves aside for the rest of the party to join them. Curiosity gets the better of him, and he moves along to see what Griffin has discovered up here.

His eyes sting as he moves further under the canopy towards the interior of the lair.  Somewhere below, a fire is smoking, probably poorly tended by the gobbos.  He struggles not to cough as he tries to find a vantage place where he can see into the dim reaches of the stone fortress.

Draven pulls himself up into the space above the Goblin lair. It is a strange space, similar to a natural cavern. Some places are nearly high enough to stand up while other areas are so narrow that one would have to squeeze through on their belly. The surface of the area is made up of the leaves and foliage of petrified trees. As Draven and Griffin move around, they notice that many of the smaller leaves are breaking and crumbling from their weight. This cautions them to be wary of thin places, as they might crash through to the lair 15 feet below.

There are lots of places above their heads that are open to the sky, but most of the ‘roof’ beneath them seems solid. Up ahead, Griffin spies what looks like a good sized hole that might lead down. He also sees further on where a wider gap lies, right about where the small river separates the two sections of the lair. The smoke that is in his eyes appears be coming up and over from the main section as no smoke billows up from the hole directly ahead of him.

Down below, Marcel and Remar contemplate whether to follow their companions or wait here.

Griffin slithers forward, keeping his weight spread out as much as he can, and tries to see what he can see through the hole.

Griffin moves toward the opening and peers down inside. A large darkened room can be seen, fortunately enough light is filtering through to allow him to see, otherwise it is dark. The room appears to be surprisingly neat and tidy for a Goblin lair. There is a long wooden table surrounded by about six wooden chairs, all seemingly too big for Goblins, more human sized. There are a few crates around the edges of the room and a stack of folded blankets in one corner. The room is roughly 50 or 60 feet across and roundish. There is a stout wooden barricade type door in the northeastern area, probably blocking the entrance to the bridge and an actual door to the south east leading to another, probably smaller room, in that direction. Griffin estimates that this room takes up most of the area inside the lair on the island with the exception of what may be behind the door to the southeast.

With a sigh, the mage tries to climb up to the crawlspace but falls down and hurts his right leg. An almost silent curse is made under his breath. Catching his breath, Remar goes to try and climb up the rope again and finally joins his other comrades at their high vantage point.

Remar makes it to the space above the Goblin lair and see what Griffin and Draven have seen. Marcel remains on the ground, looking at the rope up wondering if he should follow his companions or remain here to stand guard.

“So, Griffin,” Draven whispers, “what do we have?” He is leery of encroaching lest they both fall through.

Griffin inches back and tells Draven and Remar what he sees of the lair below. From this vantage point, it does not look possible to climb over to the area above the main lair. The only possible ways over from here are to climb down into the lair and go through the log bridge or crawl across the top of the log bridge then up to the “roof” of the main lair.

Marcel climbs up to meet the others.  “You know we’re in trouble when you ask this man to climb somewhere.” He peers down into the dark but his vision is accustomed to the outdoors and he sees nothing.

“There appears to be something interesting down there by your account. How about Grif heads down and Remar covers. We can pull you back up or I can slide down if things get gobliney all of a sudden.”

Session Notes

This is another online, PbP type session (utilizing +Roll20 for rolling and a map for positioning) but things got a little messed up when I had to reschedule our normal live session 2 weeks ago due to an impending vacation and differing plans (mine and my wife's) so we continued this for another week and a half, getting a little further along in the story.

Cast of Characters: 

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

Remar Umerus, an Alphatian battle mage that escaped forced service in the Thyatian army (conjured by +Ben Lipe and) piloted by +Alex Safatli 

Marcel Maas, a down on his luck Traladaran soldier turned mercenary commanded by +Christian Blouin 

Draven Rickart, a Thyatian Acolyte of the Church of Karameikos piously played by +Jason Packer 

and +Jason Woollard as The DM

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