Grand Duchy 57

Grand Duchy of Adventure

Session 57
May 21 - June 3, 2015

Run To The Hills

Gromdain 12 Yarthmont

Setting Up Camp

The surrounding area
Back at the camp, everyone makes themselves useful in setting up the tents and dealing with the horses. Draven works on setting some of the cooking implements out so they are ready when Marcel returns from his scouting mission. Burik comes over and crouches down next to the priest.

“These mountains up ahead, I’m not quite sure we’re ready for them. I know mountains a little, but not these. This is going to be harder than we think,” the young Traladaran says. He makes an uneasy face as he stands, resting his hand on the magical sword strapped to his belt.

“Aye, I’m not sure what the best course is here. Part of me says that keeping my misgivings to myself will preserve everyone else’s sense that it’ll be easy, another walk in through the forest, while another says that we need to prepare them for the potential issues we’ll be seeing. I’m no mountaineer, but I know a thing or two.”

He stops to peer up ahead, as though he might see through the mountains and foothills that lie before the group.

“Let’s keep an open eye for any passes or easy valleys that we can guide folks through to. Even the steepest mountains have to come down to somewhere, and where they meet we might find easier going.”

“Yea, without a guide, that’s the best we’re going to get. I trust Griffin, he’s my friend, known him forever…”

“And with good reason! I’ve not known him nearly as long as forever, but I put my trust in him as well. He can be rash, but has yet to fail as far as loyalty is concerned.”

Finishing up with stowing the supplies for the evening, Draven works to get a fire going, detailing a few of the others to gather wood to keep it going - don’t stray far from the protection, mind you, and holler and hurry back if you see anything untoward.

He prepares himself to continue with his usual evening-time activity, teaching whoever of the young Traladarans in the party want to learn to read, to do so. The more widely read they become, the more likely they are to move up in the world, and to embrace civilization…

Rood and Sen are eager to learn to read Thyatian, though Esir, the homesteader, seems to always have better things to do than look at words on a page. Draven knows not to press this matter as he knows that reading is not something that is very important to the natives of this land, most of them do not even know how to read their own language. Occasionally, Burik will stroll past while Draven is working on his lessons, but whenever Draven looks to him to give an invitation, he hurries on. Recently, though, Draven has noticed that Burik sticks around and seems slightly more interested each time he passes.

Unconsciously imitating the priests that taught him, Draven works with Rood and Sen, using up his precious writing supplies to give them something to write their own copies out, in their own hand, of some of the Karamekian Church scriptures. It will sink in, little by little, and not just the reading and writing, I hope. When the boys tire of that, he works on them with their math, teaching them about arithmetic that demands more than one’s fingers and toes, and even concepts like shares and percentages. “The humblest farmer needs to know how to figure these things, lest he be shorn along with his sheep when he sells his goods,” he asserts as he works through a problem of how to determine if two thirds of one batch of goods is a fair trade for three-fifths of another.

A Revelation

Iris, Stephan and Ree spend their extra time looking over the maps and other clues the company has, trying to find the best route to whatever it is they are searching for. All of the sudden, Iris leaps to her feet, “I… I… I think I have figured out some of this scroll!” She waves her hands in front of her face, as if fanning it, and hops around in a little circle. Everyone else stops and watches her, waiting for her to explain.

Draven stands up quickly, nearly dropping his pocket testament in the fire - thankfully Rood catches it before anything bad happens. “Looks like it might be time for another lesson, lads,” he says as he starts towards the other group. “As this one will likely involve treasure, and is taught by a rather prettier professor, I suspect she’ll have no trouble keeping you from nodding off…”

As everyone approaches the excited Iris, she calms a bit and tries to collect herself. “Sorry,” she blushes, “I got a little carried away when I realized how to decipher some of the script. I can’t read it all, but I know were on the right track.” She indicates the ancient scroll she has been working with. It is laid out on a small square of velvet on top of a large, flat rock. Some smaller rocks are holding its corners down. The parchment looks dry and frail.

“Don’t get too close, and please don’t touch it, it may crumble into dust. It is very old, about two thousand, if my theories are correct. This is Hutaakan script, the dog-like beings we have seen statues of around recently. Look here,” she points toward the scroll with a pair of fine metal tongs with little bits of cloth stuck to the ends. “This part here, this is a name of the whoever  wrote this scroll. See, here it is again at the bottom. If I can read it correctly it is instructions to someone to return home. It says something about the stars and power and strange beasts from the mountains. It says bring the treasures of the temples and the people so they can be fed.” She stops for a moment to make sure everyone is following along. “But here, this part is the best. It says the sacred tapestries and silver needles will show the path!” She nearly jumps up for joy, “And WE HAVE A TAPESTRY AND NEEDLE!” she shouts, then quickly covers her mouth. “Oh, um, oops. I suppose I shouldn’t be shouting that to the whole realm, should I?” She turns her eyes down even as her echoes continue to bounce from one rocky hillside to another.

Stephan stands tall and puffs out his chest, “This is what we see, the ancient treasures of the Hutaakan. A worthy goal. Full of, history and lore. And no doubt priceless!”

Burik's eyes light up at this last part. Ancient treasures, especially priceless ones, seem to poke at the adventurous parts of everyone.

“It does seem like we’re on the right track here. Now we just have to hope that we can get… where we’re going before anyone else figures out where that is.”

Scouting the Area

About a mile away from the camp, Griffin and Marcel carefully urge their mounts up the rocky track, heading toward the dark cave opening they spotted higher up. Eventually, both men have to dismount and clamber up an uneven slope. The cave mouth is somewhere up above, another 20 yards or so possibly.

Griffin stops to catch his breath and wait for Marcel. “We should probably take it pretty quiet from here.” he whispers. He sniffs the breeze. Perhaps a scent to give a hint as to the denizens of the cave?

Marcel scrambles up after Griffin. Once the two men make it to more level ground, they both carefully re-ready their weapons and shields and start to make their way up a sloping rocky path. A steep ridge stretches up to the left about 15 or so feet and a long, rocky slope angles down on the right, well over 50 feet to the bottom. The cave they had spotted should be somewhere up on the left, probably just past the ridge.

"Did you see something go behind that rock over there?"
Marcel wipes the sweat off his forehead. Marcel squints to find the best foot path to go up ahead and hold his breath in hope to hear something, or not throw Griffin’s scent off with the smell of sweet onion.

As the two cautious adventurers make their way up the rocky track, Marcel hears some movement up on the ridge above them. He quickly looks up and sees something dark pull away from the edge but cannot be certain what it was. He thinks it looked more animal-like than anything else. Some small rocks skitter down the face of the ridge, bouncing down around Marcel’s feet.

After a few moments, the two men make it to the top of the path they had been following. Ahead of them and to the left they see a fairly level area about 60 feet across. A rocky outcropping sits just in front of them and further on, the inky black mouth of the cave yawns at them. In the fading light of day, Griffin sees something too dark to be a shadow disappear behind the rock outcropping just as they arrive. Marcel thinks he hears a low growl coming from the cave mouth and catches a tiny wisp of smoke escape from the dark cave.

Griffin taps his shield to get Marcel’s attention, then indicates where he saw the rock outcropping where he saw movement. He indicates that he will swing around and deal with it while Marcel approaches from the right side of the cave. Griffin slides quietly off into the dusk.

Oh, Hell… hound!

Griffin slowly rounds the tall rock outcropping, keeping a good distance away from it to give him a better line of sight while still keeping some space between the drop-off to his left. He sees nothing as he moves around the rock, then something catches his eye up above. A bright fiery blast streaks toward him from about 10 feet up the rock! He has just enough time to bring his shield up or dive out of the way!

Griffin swears and ducks behind his shield. The blast explodes against it, sending a wave of heat washing over him. He grunts as he charges toward the rock outcropping, trying to deal with the threat before it can wind up for another breath. The hellhound lurks near the top. Griffin thinks he might be able to hit him if he gets close.

As Griffin advances, the beast leaps from the rock, a trails of ashy smoke in its wake, and turns to face Griffin from behind. It resembles a long, lean dog with charcoal grey skin. A writhing mane of 2 inch flames runs from behind its ears and down its back. It’s tail burns similarly. It paws the ground and watches Griffin with glowing, demonic eyes.

Behind him, Griffin hears Marcel yell to watch out behind him, “Goblin on fire!”, his friend warns! Griffin sees Marcel coming up from around the rock from the same direction he had come from. Obviously his companion had not heeded his suggestion to go check out the cave opening but followed him instead.

Marcel and Griffin face off with a Hellhound
Okay, let’s give this new sword a tryout. Griffin spins and takes a strong swing at the beast. The creature seems unprepared for the rogue’s ferocity, and his blow strikes deeply into its back.

The fiery hound yelps loudly and reels back from the force of Griffin’s strike. A glowing red wound is visible across it’s back, left flank and chest.

Wow, the edge on this blade is amazing. I wonder how the point is? Griffin aims a powerful thrust at the creature’s underbelly, hoping to down it quickly. The hell-hound staggers as it tries to evade the blow, and Griffin’s new sword strikes home.

Marcel moves up next to Griffin as he pulls his blade back from the underbelly of the hellhound. The creature howls a frightening wail as it falls over onto its side, unmoving. The flames on its back dim but continue burning. A greenish-black smoke pours from its open mouth.

Marcel’s eyes go wide and the hair on Griffin’s neck stand up as another, then another howl starts up, coming from right behind them! Two more hellhounds have revealed themselves. One is coming up from around the other side of the rock outcropping and the other has padded up from the path that Marcel and Griffin first arrived on.

Griffin moves to put his back to the outcropping, trying to avoid getting flanked. “Marcel!” he barks, “Two on one! Let’s see if we can finish this one before the next one gets here!”

"Too late, friend. It's already here," Marcel calls out.

“Let’s gain high ground!” Marcel instructs Griffin as he swerves on his left of the outcropping to meet with the flaming goblin to give Griffin a chance to take stock of the degrading situation.

Marcel and Griffin move over toward the rocky outcropping in hopes of gaining some higher ground and giving them something solid at their back. Both men watch as the two remaining hellhounds approach slowly. The beast’s glowing red eyes never blink or look away as they approach.

The hound approaching Griffin gets into position first and takes a huff and belches out a mouthful of flame that shoots directly toward Griffin!

Griffin tries to duck behind his shield, but the beast’s fire flows around the edges. The young warrior smells burning hair. “Oh, you did not just do that!” Despite the pain, he lashes out with his sword, giving back as good as he took.

The hellhound leaps at Griffin, trying to grapple his arm in its fiery jaws, but the rogue ducks behind his shield, then slashes swiftly back. They both maneuver, looking for an opening. He attacks several times, but does not appear to be harming the foul beast.

Suddenly, the beast charges! Griffin hears a satisfying yelp as he smacks the beast’s charge aside with his sword, then leaps back in with a thrust to the underbelly while it tries to recover.

Griffin’s steel is too much for the fiery beast to handle and the creature slumps to the ground, unmoving, its back and tail still burning, but the dark flames greatly diminished.

The young man wipes the soot from his brow, then smiles and turns to aid his comrade. Hopefully I can arrive before things get too hot! He grins at his wit as he charges across the rough ground.

While Griffin engages one Hellhound on his side of the rocky outcropping, Marcel finds himself in a hot spot as well as the beast approaching him stops about 5 yards short and lets out a blast of fiery breath directly at him!

Marcel blocks the fire with his shield and approaches the beast with a steady foot. “You…. burning bark will not deter.”, he exclaims. Examining the approaching foe and positioning for an old-fashioned dual attack.

The creature does not retreat as Marcel approaches and snaps its large, flaming mouth at his lead leg but Marcel skillfully blocks the attack, causing the Hellhound to pivot away from him. Marcel then swings his shield down at the Hellhound followed swiftly by a thrust of his spear. The fiend tries to get out of the way but manages to take both attacks fully and lets out a pained wail as it retreats again and blasts another mouthful of flame directly at Marcel.

Marcel is able to keep his shield between himself and the flame, though some of reddish-orange flames lick around the edge of his shield, trying to get him. He steps up, keeping the shield ready, and attacks the Hellhound using his traditional dual attack. The Hellhound tries to hop back out of range, but it is slowed due to its previous wounds and Marcel lands two solid blows, sending the beast to the ground. It rolls over on its side and stops moving. The flames running down its back and tail flicker and then go out.

To the Rescue

Back at the campsite… As everyone thinks about the implications of what Draven has just said, an unsettling howling wail echoes off the nearby hillsides. It sounds fairly close and most definitely dangerous.

“Merciful Gods,” breaths Draven under his breath. “Ree, Remar, Burik, to me! Gear up and let’s go see what trouble we’ve got for ourselves.” To Stephan and Iris he adds “Keep the boys here with you, keep a perimeter and we’ll be back before you know it.”

Stopping only to gather mace and shield, and to ensure his holy symbol is shining bright against his dark, travel-worn mail, he waits at the perimeter for the others to join him before heading off in the direction of the wolfen howls. I’ve dispatched plenty of wolves on this journey. They’re not so tough. And by the gods, this time I’m getting a cloak out of it!

In a small act of opposition, Ree states that she will stay with Stephan and help watch the camp. Draven considers arguing but lets it go for later. He leads the other members of the Grey Company along the rocky ravine that Griffin and Marcel left by a short while earlier.

“Keep close, and keep your ears open. It was only the sound of a wolf howling that alerted us in the first place.” He scans ahead, looking for some sign of where his compatriots might be.

Another mournful wail fills the immediate area as Draven and the others search for their friends. Draven spots a dark cave opening up above on a wide ledge and can hear the sounds of battle coming from up there. A few orange-red flashes of light indicate potentially serious trouble for his friends.

“Their horses!” Burik cries out and points further along. Both horses are standing nervously near a steep slope that looks as if it might lead up toward the cave opening. Draven figures it will take several minutes to climb up the slope.

As if reading his mind, Remar calls to Draven, “I can get you up there quickly, come here.” The young Mage motions for Draven to approach him.

“I do hope you know what you’re doing,” he says briefly before giving in to Remar’s suggestion. “Everyone else can come up immediately after, if your plan allows for it?”

Remar smiles and nods his head toward the ledge up above where the sounds of battle are coming from. “Just get up there, someone may be hurt! We’ll go up that way,” pointing to the rocky slope that Griffin and Marcel must have taken.

Confused, Draven begins to protest, then realizes that he is no longer sitting in the saddle of his horse, but floating in the air just a few feet above it. “Oh,” he says sheepishly before turning his head upward toward the edge of the cliff above. As soon as he thinks it, the young cleric begins rising, faster and faster toward his destination.

The Cave on Hellhound Cliff

Draven crests the top of the rocky cliff and sees his two companions engaged individually with what can only be Hellhounds, infernal beasts in the shape of large dogs with the flames of Hell running down the length of their backs. Both Hellhounds fall to the ground nearly simultaneously and Draven spots a third downed beast nearby.

The Company defeats all the Hellhounds... or do they?
Griffin’s clothes and armor show signs of some serious burning and areas of his exposed flesh are burnt and blistered. Draven can see the gaping mouth of a cave on the other side of the ledge, past a large rocky outcropping that juts up out of the middle of the ledge. The young Thyatian, Griffin, leans heavily against the rock.

“Whee-ooo!” He looks up at Draven, “Oh, hey, Brother. Um, are you flying? Cool!” He looks over at the battlefield. “We found a bit of trouble. Would have been unfortunate if they’d gotten a chance to attack the camp.” He waves at the corpses. “Nasty pieces of work.” He pauses to think, “but their coats might bring in a tidy penny…”

Two of the Hellhounds lie there, occasionally twitching, the fire that runs along their backs still burning, though very minimally. The third hound, the one that Marcel had dispatched, lays completely motionless. The infernal fire along its back just a smouldering and smoking ridge. After another moment, the entire creature begins to hiss and smoke. The Hellhound’s skin begins to burn away as if being covered with acid or an invisible fire, smashing everyone’s hopes of a fancy new Hellhound mantle. The sharp, acrid stench coming off the corpse forces everyone back a few steps.

“Bravely done, but stand clear of the effluvia,” suggests Draven. “Hellhounds are not made of the same stuff and you or I, but of some manner of bastardized elemental fire. You’ve dispatched the demon imp that possessed it back to hell, but we need to keep our eyes out for whoever, or whatever, summoned it. Might be someone allied with a foul god of darkness, or it might be another demon. Stay sharp!”

As if to punctuate Draven’s statement, a low rumble is barely heard, more felt, and a billow of foul, brownish almost black smoke comes billowing out of the cave mouth. After a moment, the smoke clears and the quiet of the dusky hills resumes.

Burik appears around the the corner, having just climbed up the rocky slope that Marcel and Griffin initially clambered up. He seems tired and out of breath. “The mage, Remar, stayed, with the, horses. That was, a tough, climb,” he manages to spit out.

He starts making his way around to where the others have gathered near the ledge. The young Traladaran steps aside and gives the first fallen hellhound a wide berth as it sizzles and smokes. In his attempt to stay away from the beast, he ventures too close to the open cave mouth. Before anyone can even shout a warning to him, two red eyes materialize out of the darkness then dart forward, revealing a fourth, considerably larger Hellhound. The beast slams into Burik’s back as it latches on to his shoulder and neck with a wide, fiery maw. Burik falls to the ground under the weight of the beast. Blood sprays out, looking black in the fading light.

Time to save Burik!
Burik, you've been bitten by a Hellound!
The three companions quickly jump to ready positions, bringing their weapons and shields to the ready. As Marcel brings his shield up in an attempt to shed some more light in the direction of the beast, the divine light flickers then fades to darkness. Burik cries out in pain as the Hellhound begins dragging him back into the cave.

“Son of a bitch!” swears Griffin as he charges forward. “You let him go!” He doesn’t look back, assuming that his comrades are with him.

Instinctively grasping and raising his holy symbol, Draven pelts as fast as he can towards the hound. “By the power of all that is good and pure, you will release that man!”

Cast of Characters: 

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

Marcel Maasa homely but sincere wielder of spears aspiring to cooking greatness commanded by +Christian Blouin 

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

and +Jason Woollard as The DM

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