Grand Duchy 64

Grand Duchy of Adventure

Session 64August 20 - September 9, 2015

Daybreak Over Death's Head Valley

Tserdain 20 Yarthmont

Waking After A Long Night

The Grey Company drags themselves out of bed in the morning after a long night of Manticore trouble. After losing two horses to the beast, the Company had believed they had tracked it to its lair in an abandoned tower nearby but as they approached the tower, a mutilated horse leg was dropped on them from high up in the air. A quick search of the tower showed that the Manticore, Shifirax, may have used it to bed down from time to time, but it definitely wasn’t it’s permanent lair. Frustrated that their newest enemy seems to have escaped, the Company heads back to the campsite to tell the others what they have found.

The news that the Manticore is not in the immediate vicinity is well received by the Company, but just to be safe, they added a third member to the rest of the night’s watches, even though it would mean tired souls the next day. After the night they had already experienced, there was no getting around that anyway.
Old Gren moves through the camp, waking everyone up. The smell of his burnt coffee not quite enticing enough to spur movement. The camp was still dark and only the tallest mountain peaks to the west had the morning’s light on them. “Come on now, ya’ll want to get down into and across that valley today, right? Now’s the best time to be going.” He spits on the ground and behind him, on the edge of the camp, his mount, the sturdy moose Bullwinkle, snorts and spits on the ground as well, as if punctuating Gren’s comment.

“You all expecting company? Maybe some backup? Went backtrackin’ a bit earlier this morning, before the sun was up. Saw what looked to be two or three campfires down at the start of the trail that we climbed yesterday. Not many folk come up here, ‘specially not so many folk as would need three campfires,” the old ranger muses. He looks around at the waking Company then over toward the tied up horses. He turns and looks down into the Death’s Head Valley. 

As the morning sun burns away the night, a misty white fog rolls down off the colder peaks and clings to the lower lying places, making the green and brown valley look mystical and mysterious.
deaths head valley morning fog.jpg
Old Gren turns back to Griffin, Draven, Marcel and Iris while the others break camp, “I’ve been thinking, it’s not looking like a good idea to take this whole group across the valley, not with missing several horses. I can lead ya down to the valley floor, then double back with the three youngins, maybe one more if ye’ think ye’ can spare ‘im. That’ll give ya one mount a piece. I can lead them back up and around, maybe even lead whoever is following us in the wrong direction. The fog down there is a good thing,too, but it’ll no doubt burn off completely in a few hours. Best to take advantage of it while you can.” He crosses his arms and looks to the exhausted Company for their decision.

Yawning and knuckling his eyes, Draven missed once more the quiet comforts of the church back in Verge. Considering old Gren’s words, Draven looks to the others. “I can see the potential benefits in a bit of subterfuge, as well as narrowing the number of riders.” He grimaces once more as he takes another bit of Gren’s coffee, tasting the grounds and something else mixed in, no doubt for ‘rustic flavor’ underneath. 

Old Gren sees Draven choking down his coffee and chuckles. “That’ll put hair on yer chest, boy. Make a real man out of ya!” He thumps his chest a few times and grunts. “Good stuff, ehh?” He spits on the ground, nearly splattering Draven’s foot with an ugly mess of brownish black spit.

Iris likes to think in the morning. What she’s thinking about right now is that morning is her least favorite time of the day. Groaning out loud, she wallows in resignation as she waters her dry mouth with some strange concoction courtesy of Old Gren. Looking to her companions, she decides to remain quiet and let the others make some sort of decision. She’d much rather not think. This is morning and it’s a morning after a run-in with some strange beast. She’d rather be anywhere but here.

Griffin nods as he grunts at Old Gren’s proposal. “Yea, I was thinking something along those lines last night. If you can get the three amigos back safe to civilization, we’ll press on.

He takes a sip of “coffee” and grimaces as he turns to Old Gren. “Unfortunately, no, we’re not expecting backup. There’s another party that’s interested in what we’re up to here - I imagine they’re who you saw. And you should avoid them at all costs. They’re not very nice folk, and I hear they have a fondness for moose steaks.” In the distance, they hear Bullwinkle snort.

“Now if you can slow them up at all without risking yourselves, by all means. But they’re dangerous, and sneaky. Be careful.”

Griffin packs his gear up quickly. He sees Burik grabbing a cup of Old Gren’s morning brew. Might as well get this over with. He grabs his saddlebags and starts walking over to the horses, away from the rest of the party. “Hey, Burik, can I get a hand over here?”

The young swordsman follows, his cup cradled in his hands. “What’s up, Griff?” 

Griffin slings his saddlebags over the back of his new mount and turns to face his old friend. Straight to the point, I guess.

“Here’s the deal. Golthar is at the bottom of the mountain. The time for stealth is over, so we need to make the best time we can. There are seven horses, and eleven of us. Marcel’s kids are obvious choices to head back with Old Gren. That reduces things to eight.”

It is obvious that Burik can see where this is going. “Now wait a minute. I’ve been in this from the beginning.” 

"You keep trying to cut me out of the action, cut me out of the payoff. Do you think I can't do this or something?" Burik's voice raises and Griffin sees his friend's face getting flush and his hands clench into fists. Griffin immediately flashes back to that incident in the Susikyn yard.

Seeing tempers flare, Draven steps forward, interposing himself between the passionate duo. “Burik, stop and think. You know good and well that we don’t want to get rid of you. You’ve been essential to this whole team from the beginning.” Taking his arm and steering him away from the others he lowers his voice. “Consider where we find ourselves? Only enough horses for a fraction of us, and the others hot on our heels. Someone has to stay behind, and those three lads of Marcel’s are the logical choice. But we can’t send them on their own, and we barely know Old Gren, right? Are you going to trust the lives of those boys to him? Who in this company can match you for self-sufficiency?” 

Burik wheels around on Draven, arms raised in front of him, and for a moment the priest thinks he is going to hit him but then Burik’s shoulders slump and a weak grin crosses his face. He looks over his shoulder toward where Rood and Sen are folding up the tent, then looks back to Draven. “Yea, you’re right. It makes sense. I need to keep an eye on the boys, watch the Company’s back.” He looks back at Griffin as he starts to walk away. “This is considered an active role, not a sideline. I still get a full share when you get back. And of course, you all will get a full share of whatever spoils I claim after taking out the yellow wizard!” He chuckles and goes to remove his gear from the horses and tell the boys what the plan is.

Well, color me surprised. Iris watches the ongoings in silence, secretly surprised in her companions’ resourcefulness once again. She didn’t think even a giant spider could get that man out of their hair. She flashes a smirk to Draven when she catches his eye and mouths “Good job.”

Griffin breathes a sigh of relief. Well, that went better than I expected. He turns to Draven, speaking softly. “My thanks, Brother. Burik and I go way back, and sometimes it’s easy to fall into old habits. I probably would have said what you did, but I think he heard it differently coming from someone else.”

He sweeps the camp with his eyes and sees nothing left to do. “Old Gren, we’ll meet you back at your place when we’re done here. Hopefully that won’t be too long.” He looks at his friend chatting with the youngsters. “Burik, give ‘em hell.” His friend nods and grins. Griffin turns his horse and starts moving down the slope into the valley.  “Okay, folks, let’s get going. The time for stealth is over. This is a race!”

Preparations are made quickly as the sun rises higher and higher, though still directly unseen by the Grey Company due to their location and proximity to the nearest mountain peak. Old Gren explains that most of the trip down into the valley will have to be on foot due to the treacherous and narrow trails, so those without mounts won’t be holding the party up at all anyway. 

The plan is to hightail it to the bottom where Old Gren will then lead Burik and the three boys back up an alternate trail that hooks back around toward Brokeneck Gap and give them a view of the trail down into the Death’s Head Valley. Once they see that the pursuing group has descended into the valley, they will head back toward Old Gren’s hut near Northolt and wait for the Company there.

Have a Nice Trip, See Ya Next Fall

As the group begins to descend, most of the view of the valley gets cut off by the surrounding walls, though Old Gren points out the various places along the slope to the left where he plans to watch for the other group. Though the trail is narrow and steep, the descent into the valley does not take that long at all, though it is more difficult for some, Marcel most of all.

When nearly at the bottom of the trail, the warrior Marcel takes a bad step and stumbles. In attempting to steady himself, he steps on loose rocks on the edge of the trail. The rocks crumble out from under his heavy boot and the Traladaran pitches right over the edge of the trail. He falls about 5 feet before hitting an outcropping of rock, bounces, then slides another 15 or so feet down a very steep section of mountain. He stops, lodged behind a small, gnarled bush growing out from behind a precariously balanced boulder. Loose rocks and gravel go showering down the slope, making quite a clatter. 

When the dust settles, Marcel is laying at a very awkward angle, wedged behind the bush and the rock, unmoving. Old Gren freezes and holds his hand up indicating for everyone to stop and be silent. He whispers, “Sound like this could echo through the valley, might alert any Gnolls nearby. We need to proceed with caution here. Your friend is hurt, but looks like he’s still breathing. It’s a bit of a distance from the trail below, so were gonna have to either climb down to him from here or work our way down and try to climb over to him.” He looks at Draven and Remar, “Unless one of you knows some good magic to use.” He looks over to Iris and Ree as well, “Ladies?”

Griffin stands at the edge, eyeing the trail, the steep slope, and Marcel’s precarious position. He pulls rope out of his pack and quickly lashes a bowline onto one end, which he hands to Burik. “You’re on belay. Just don’t move. I’ll go down and secure Marcel, then help guide him  as you all help bring him up.”  Burik nods and slips the loop over his shoulder, steps back from the edge and braces himself.

He turns to the young priest, “Draven, use your boots and meet me down there. You should look him over before we move him, get him as good you can. He’s out cold, so he may not be worth much getting himself back up.”

With that, he spins and begins the descent to his injured friend.

Not trusting to his voice not to betray his concern, Draven nods, and doesn’t wait for Griffin to begin his descent before beginning his own trip down to where Marcel lies, muttered prayers already on his lips as he travels. Once he arrives, without touching anything, he tries to ascertain just how badly Marcel is hurt, and whether he is safe to move.

Iris, concerned for her friend, goes to quickly cast a spell to aid her in climbing down to her friends, putting the smallest amount of herself into the spell. At least she should be of use to get poor Marcel back up now, and, with her other two companions’ talents, should be able to avoid anymore harm. This day gets better and better.

An exhausted Draven arrives at the fallen Marcel first and carefully begins checking him out. Fortunately it looks like he took the brunt of the fall with his body. His limbs and head appear ok. Griffin slides down the hill quickly with the use of his rope and Iris follows nearly as fast, her natural climbing skill aided by her magic.

As Griffin and Iris arrive, Draven sits on a rock next to Marcel breathing heavily. Despite their magical nature, his Boots of Levitation still take something out of him when he uses them.

Griffin and Iris look Marcel and the area over and decide upon the best way to get him tied up without causing any further rock slides. His body is wedged fairly tightly behind the bush and rock and Griffin is worried that by moving him it may cause the boulder to go rolling down the slope, causing untold commotion. 

Looking over at Iris, Draven breathes one more heavy breath before he speaks. “I’m not sure how you do this, fueling your magic with your own essence. I will stick with being a channel for divine justice, than you very much.”

Glancing back to where Marcel lies, he continues, “He’s hurt, and not just a little, but it’s not life threatening, not yet. If we can get him free I can patch him up. But that’s about it. I might not make it down under my own power as it is.”

Griffin loops his rope around Marcel’s torso under his arms and ties it off. “Burik, you guys ready?” he whispers, trying to keep the sound down. Burik waves, and he, Old Gren, and Remar grab the rope. Griffin moves alongside his comrade as they make their way
back up the slope. Marcel’s armor bunches up, actually supporting his head, as he is lifted free from where he is wedged. Griffin flinches as the boulder shifts as Marcel lifts away, rocking back and forth before coming to rest again. Whew!

Hanging Out On The Mountainside

Slowly and carefully, Marcel's limp body is dragged back up the slope. Griffin and Iris climb up with him, supporting him and trying to keep him from getting any more hurt. After a few minutes, he is safely back with the group. Draven floats back up as well and nearly collapses on the trail next to Marcel. 

Old Gren looks over the scene before him on the trail. “We got a little more’n an hour to get to the bottom. Right here we are more than little exposed to the that part of the valley,” he motions to a narrow slice of the valley below.
He then glances upward to the steep trail above them and curses, “Aww shit, lookey there,” he points up into the bright sky above as a winged creature flies past and disappears behind one of the peaks. “I dunno if it spotted us, ‘twas pretty high up, above where we camped last night, but it’s something to keep in mind. Damned Manticore is still out there, and I’m guaranteeing that it ain’t forgot about us yet!” He pauses for a second and looks around the immediate area. “If we can’t move “Big’n’Burly” here too far, we need to think about findin’ ourselves some cover so we can stay hidden from above and below.”

“Well, it sounds like somewhere else is better than here. Gren, can you scout ahead and find us a hidey-hole or maybe just a wider place in the trail? We’ll get Marcel onto a horse and follow. Slowly, but we’ll follow.”

Griffin looks around for anything that could help minimize their exposure. He snaps his fingers and roots through Marcel’s pack, pulling out his Elven cloak. “Maybe this will help.” He puts his on as well.

Remar and Griffin lever Marcel over the back of Rocky, the biggest horse they have. “This may be a little undignified, old friend, but it’s necessary” says Griffin as he lashes Marcel into the saddle. He takes Rocky’s leads, determined to help Marcel make it to the bottom of the mountain.

“Okay, guys, let’s keep moving. We can rest when we’re all rich!” He clears his throat, “Actually, we’ll rest much sooner than that. But you get the point, right?” and he smiles.

Old Gren puzzles over this for a moment and then announces, “Not sure of any good places further on, but I do remember a little bit of a overhang about 15 minutes back up the trail. Not gonna be big enough for all of us to get under, but have the procession at least, that work?” Griffin nods to him and Gren takes off, urging Bullwinkle to a scrambling trot up the rocky trail. The others turn their horses around and make to follow.

When the Company arrives at the spot, they see that Old Gren has started gathering up some brush and branches to use as cover. Marcel is taken off his mount and laid as gently as possible on the ground. Draven dismounts and moves slowly toward him.

Griffin gets Marcel off the horse and propped up under the overhang, then gets to work with Gren and the camouflage. Man, I miss Eran. He always made this stuff look easy.

Draven makes no move to begin healing Marcel up, instead spending a few minutes catching his breath. “I’m not sure I’ll be much good at this, as tired as I am, but the good gods know he needs something.” Mustering up as much stamina as he can, Draven places his hands on Marcel’s chest and abdomen and begins to pray. Yet, try as he might, the magic will not come. Chagrined, he rocks back onto his backside and splays next to Marcel’s prone form. “Rest, give me… half an hour’s rest and I can do this. I know I can…”

I think this is one of those days we ought to have stayed in our bedrolls. Each step was a labor for Iris, and she knew her body would give out on her soon, but she pushed herself mindlessly to keep up with the others. She did not want to be the one to drag them behind.

When the spot Old Gren pointed up was finally in view, she tried to recall the things she needed to do to set up camp, but grasped nothing. She looks to the others blankly and sits down, trying to wait out the white she was seeing everywhere in her vision.

Finishing with the camouflage, Griffin takes a position near the edge of the overhang, with a view as much of the sky as he can.He readies his crossbow, then sighs. “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, folks. Let’s catch our breath, see to Marcel. Soon as we get him upright, we need to be moving again.”

Griffin sits on a rock, crossbow propped on one knee, his other hand rolling a silver corona across his knuckles. Flip, flip, flip, flip, and under. Once we hit the bottom, can we sprint the length of the valley? Will the horses hold up? Will we? He looks back at Marcel, still unconscious. Is he gonna be up for this, or should I swap him out for Burik?

He pulls his cloak around him, trying to look like a part of the rocks, and continues to scan the skies.

Bad Medicine

Remar quickly looks at Marcel’s wounds and applies some healing magic but as he casts the spell, something is clearly wrong. As the young mage finishes his invocation and lays his hands upon Marcel, dark, crackling energy swirls around him and is channeled through his hands and into the unconscious warrior. Marcel’s body spasms and shakes. A mouthful of blood is coughed up all over Remar’s face. The Alphatian mage leaps to his feet and lets out a little cry, holding his hands out in front of him. Faint wisps of smoke come from the ends of his fingers. 

“What the… I don’t…. what just happened!” he spits out, looking around at his companions. “That is not what I tried to do, I swear!” Remar falls to the hard, dirt ground and sits in the corner, his knees pulled up to his chest. “I’m sorry,” he mutters quietly over and over. Marcel, still unconscious, looks even worse off than he did before. Everyone just sort of sits there, staring at each other, scared to even approach the now twice wounded Marcel. 

After about 40 minutes, everyone is about as rested as they are going to be and some are starting to get anxious to go again. Old Gren is quite anxious. “If’n you all ar’ gonna make it ‘cross that valley before nightfall, we best be gittin’ down there and started. It’s gettin’ late.” He looks at Marcel then to Draven, “If yer gods see fit to heal ‘im, then ya best get to layin’ on of hands, brother. Time is short.” The boys start moving around the area, getting the gear ready to go.

Knowing there’s little to be gained from waiting further, Draven kneels next to Marcel’s chest. “Great Lady, this one may be a child of these benighted hinterlands, but he is a valiant warrior in your fight for justice, and one who will bring order to this place. I place him in your hands.”

Preparation, determination, luck? Whatever it was, this time the healing energies coursed forth, knitting Marcel back together and drawing him back from the brink of death.

As Draven’s healing powers wash over him, Marcel sits up groggily. He looks around, “Where the hell are we? What’s going on?” He rubs his head and winces as he turns to look around him. Draven looks him over and realizes that he is still fairly injured. Apparently Remar’s misguided use of healing magic did more damage than he initially thought. 

Old Gren interjects, “Can ya walk? Stay away from the edge of the trail next time, clumsy. We gotta get moving. That fog in the valley is nearly burnt out, it’s gonna ruin your whole advantage! Plus whoever is following us is probably nearing the top of the Gap by now, lessen o’ course they got slowed down by the ghouls like we did…,” his voice trails off as he gazes up the slope to the top of Brokeneck Gap.

Into the Valley

Finally the Grey Company gets on the road again and just before reaching the bottom, Old Gren calls for a stop and scratches some lines into the ground, showing the general outline of the valley. He grabs a few pine needles and lays them down near his drawing. “Pretend that these here needles is about 5 miles long, then you get the big picture.”

“Follow the Foamfire as best you can, the mist and fog will hang heavier there and hopefully keep you hidden as long as possible. You will need to head out into the open here though, cut across this vale and then around til you see the water. A pretty good sized pool is known to form where the Foamfire cuts into the mountains before it comes out down past Verge. That will be your most vulnerable point, I think, so stay low and and move slowly. If you ride too fast, it might scare the birds or animals in the valley, and that could alert the Gnolls.” He draws some markers to show some places of hilly land. “You’re going to want to go around most of these places. The Gnolls like to set their camps up in the hills and they are gonna know them like the backs of their mangy hands. If you have to cut through the hills, watch out for traps, pitfalls and snares and the like. They are a nasty lot, these mutts!” He points toward the nearest set of hills. “These hills here,” he then stands up straight and points into the valley in front of him, indicating some low, rolling hills with minimal vegetation growing on them, “yer gonna want to go around the backside of these hills. It’ll get you nearly halfway toward the Foamfire. From my experience, the Gnolls don’t come down in these hills much. They stay here in the eastern end or up along the water, most near the hill areas. I’m gonna take these boys and head over that’a way so we can start gettin’ a move on back up the slope. Our trail ain’t gonna be a piece of cake like this one was!”

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 

Iris Vardaa Thyatian explorer and historian searching for answers and adventure guided by +Alex Safatli 

and +Jason Woollard as The DM

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