Grand Duchy 68

Grand Duchy of Adventure

Session 68
September 28 - October 6, 2015

The Gnolls Know

Tserdain 20 Yarthmont

Little Drummer Gnoll

As the wounded Gnoll tries to crawl away, Griffin steps up and follows him. As he follows, everything around him goes silent. He leans above the slowly fleeing Gnoll and thrusts his sword down, severing the filthy creatures spine. The expected crunch is missing as is the loud exhale often heard when something dies. He turns and looks back to his companions. Everyone has gathered on the top of the mound. All of their faces look weary after the challenging battle with the Ghouls followed immediately by the Gnolls. Suddenly each of their eyes go wide and looks of surprise fear appear on their faces. As one, they all turn to the left, looking past the burning sphere of darkness. Griffin tries to see what they are looking at, but the black smoke and remaining fog of the valley blocks his view. He walks back toward them, sheathing his sword. Just as he gets back to where they are standing, he hears what they are looking at.

::BOOM:: ::BOOM:: ::BOOM::

The sounds of a deep kettle drum fill the air. Just past the base of the mound, about 30 yards away, the source of the drumming can be seen. The Gnoll shaman is standing in front of a crude hut banging on a ceremonial drum of some kind. The deep notes of the drum echo off the unseen valley walls all around.

::BOOM:: ::BOOM:: ::BOOM::

Marcel, very wounded after his encounter with a Gnoll’s axe to his neck, sits on the ground, Draven approaches him. Ree and Remar stand behind Draven, looking on. Nearly everyone in the Company had sustained some type of serious wound during the battle and is in need of care. Against his better judgement, Remar tries his hand at healing magic again and heals Ree and Stephen back up to full health while Draven decides what he is going to do for the others and whether he is going to do it now or after the Shaman is taken care of.

::BOOM:: ::BOOM:: ::BOOM::

Iris couldn’t help it. Her body was shivering in fear. It seemed as though the Company has been through a lot before, and some of those times have been at the skin of their teeth. But this time, she is truly terrified this may be the last time she’ll get the chance to reflect on their group’s deeds. She looks to each of her friends and tries to memorize their faces. She doesn’t want to forget.

She strengthens her resolve and begins to slowly make her way down to the drumming gnoll. After a few steps, she looks behind her with the strongest and most courageous face she could muster. Smiling tentatively, she says to the others who are watching the scene behind her, “I’m going down there, unless any of you have any better ideas?”

::BOOM:: ::BOOM:: ::BOOM::

Griffin’s face is grim, but he pulls his shoulders back and tries a smile. “Actually, ma’am, I think I do have a better idea.” He walks past her, then says, “If you can wait just a second.” He picks up his crossbow, calmly loads a bolt and draws a bead. He takes a deep breath, exhales, and lets fly.

::BOOM:: ::thud:: ::rip::

Griffin’s bolt flies true and pierces the tightly stretched skin on the top of the drum. The Gnoll shaman’s hand slaps down on the striking surface and tears right through it. He lets out a loud, angry growl and shouts something toward the Company that sounds none too nice. He spins and disappears inside the small hut.

“There. That was getting on my nerves.” He looks around at the crew. “How we doing? The plan was to sneak until the alert was sounded. Looks like that has happened. We can grab the horses and start racing, or pull back. Golthar is on his way. Part of me wants to pull back and let him be greeted by a valley full of grumpy Gnolls. But he’d probably make it through anyways.” He squares his shoulders. “Are we still up for this? If so, let’s get our mounts and get going!”

Remar and Draven finish up some healing magic on their companions as Griffin smiles at his shot. Everyone looks at each other, their eyes saying Now what?

Quickly evaluating the situation, Draven distributes his last two potions to Marcel and to Iris. “This is more likely to work than further invocations from me.” Turning to Remar, he offers to trade. “I’ll need someone with a steady hand to pull this arrow and heal as it passes. Are you up to it?”

::boom:: ::boom:: ::boom::

As the group contemplates their move, the distant booming of other drums fills the valley. Griffin notices some movement in the shaman’s hut and suddenly a glowing black bolt of magic flies out, headed directly for him!

Iris beams at Griffin. Looking back towards where the hut is, she sees the beam fly out and feels time slow down. Oh no!

Griffin dives for cover, rolling out of the way of the bolt. He swears. “I am really getting tired of that guy. What say we get the heck out of here!” He cautiously gets up and dusts himself off, then starts making his way towards Firewild. “Everybody mount up. I don’t think it’s gonna get any easier if we stay around here.”

While the others find their mounts, Griffin reloads his crossbow and keeps a close eye on the shaman’s hut. If that smelly old Gnoll pokes his nose out, he’s going to see what Griffin’s magic bolt feels like!

As the Grey Company begins gathering their horses, the distant drums sound off again, this time the sounds come distinctly from the east then from the north.

::boom:: ::boom:: ::boom::
::boom:: ::boom:: ::boom::

Griffin starts waving his arms and whistling for the horses. Firewild tries to ignore him by sticking his nose into what looks like a tasty patch of grass, but is startled by a rabbit hiding in the same patch. He gallops away, right to Griffin!

Being mindful of the Gnoll shaman hiding out in his hut nearby, the Grey Company gathers their horses up quickly, though Marcel nearly scares his mount away again. Within a few minutes, everyone is mounted up on the southern side of the mound and ready to move out. The drums still echo around the valley, sounding closer and closer every time they are heard.

::boom:: ::boom:: ::BOOM::
::boom:: ::BOOM:: ::BOOM::

Stephan looks around, listening to the drums. “So what’s the plan? The way forward looks, um, challenging, to say the least, but the way back looks doubly so. We’re a little more than 10 miles from the end of the valley, if Gren’s recollections and map-making skills are up to snuff, anyway.” He gives Griffin a sidelong glance. “I say we make for the river, and head north as fast as we can. When we get to the bend, we either look for a place to cross, though that puts us right at the base of those hills, or we veer east and continue following the water. It’s longer that way but might keep a barrier between us and the Gnolls.” As he finishes speaking, his words are punctuated by a series of very loud and presumably very nearby drums from the north.

::BOOM:: ::BOOM:: ::BOOM::

“Well, it’s time to decide,” Stephan says as he rears his horse and starts angling toward the river somewhere to the west, turned back in his saddle waiting for everyone else.

Iris has her horse side up near Stephan. She looks to the others carefully and with fear in her eyes. “I think we should go east. What do you think Griffin, Draven, Marcel?” She tries to keep her voice steady in light of the tension.

Griffin tries to see through the fog, to no avail. “We can save some time if we head northwest,” and he points off into the mists. We’ll either hit the river or the side of the valley. Then we can follow whatever we hit around. We should stay on the east side,” and he gives a nod to Iris, “Any way we can make it harder for the Gnolls is good, in my opinion.”

“Aye, to the water and north as quickly as we can. As much as I want to end that foul shaman, we’re outmatched here,” Draven replies.

“Well, that sounds like we are committed. Excellent. Probably no chances to back out past this point, so that’s good to hear.” He pulls Firewild around so she’s heading northwest. “Visibility is not great, so stay close. We want to be where we can help each other out if we run into something.”

Old Gren’s map

The Company heads north-west as fast as they can, riding into the swirling mists, as they leave the area, one final magical bolt flies from near the shaman’s hut and strikes the rear flank of Firewild, who is lagging behind considerably due to overexertion. After a moment, it is clear that Firewild cannot keep up any pace more than a slow walk. Visibility in the mists is limited to about 20 yards at best. The ground continues to slope down gradually to the west, though to the right (the north) it seems to rise toward the small run of hills that rests there.

A Not So Fast Getaway

Griffin calls for a halt and dismounts, “Firewild can’t keep this up, we’ll lose her, and we can’t afford to lose another mount. Were gonna have to walk for a bit.”

deaths head valley riding fog.jpgStephan looks around in the mist, “Maybe we could find someplace to hole up for a bit, let the horses, and us rest then make a run for it.” He looks at Griffin and the others, “You think we should follow this close to the hills north of here? Gnolls live there. We heard the drums coming from that area.”

::boom:: ::BOOM:: ::BOOM::
::boom:: ::boom:: ::boom::

As if to highlight his comment, the drums are heard again. The first blast of drums comes from behind the Company, back to the east and another set of beats can be heard, this time coming from farther off, to the north west.

Ree interjects, “We need to know if we’re being followed, right? Need to know where the Gnolls are, right? I can take care of that, hold on a minute!” Before Griffin can say anything, Ree has spoken her magic words and performed her ritual. The young Elf girl slowly rises up out of her saddle and begins floating straight up into the air. “Wait right there for me, I’ll be back in a moment,” she says as she disappears upward through a swirl of mists.

Less than a minute later, Ree comes floating back down. She begins her report before she even reaches the ground.  “Yep, there’s Gnolls and they’re coming this way! I could see a pretty big group of them out past the burial mound, probably about a half mile away, maybe a little more. There were at least 30 or more in that group. Saw some big ones too, possibly Ogres. There’s another, smaller group, that just came down out of these hills to the north. They went back toward the mound. Must have been responding to the shaman’s drums. Only about 10 or so in that group, but it looked like they had some animals with them, couldn’t tell what they were though, pretty big but obscured too much by the mist. I couldn’t see the river up ahead, but could definitely tell where it was, the mist is pretty thick around it, though the surrounding areas are becoming clearer as the fog is burning up in the daylight. I saw quite a few campfire signals coming from them hills just across the river, so it looks like there might be a sizeable force of Gnolls there. I think getting a move on and staying on this side of the river for now is our best option.” She lands back on the saddle of her horse.

Looking gravely at Griffin, Draven asks “at a brisk walk, then? Or do we double up and,” he looks at the ground as he suggests it, “leave Firewild to find safe passage without so much weight to carry?” My horse is sturdy and strong, and barely notices me on his back, Iris or Ree could ride pillion with me, freeing up another horse for you…”

“Either way, the decision must be made, and made swiftly.”

Griffin makes a face at the thought of leaving another horse behind. “I think doubling up will just leave us with two exhausted mounts in short order.” He moves to take Firewild’s reins. “A brisk walk for now. Hopefully, the mists will be as much of a handicap for the Gnolls as for us.” He checks his crossbow, making sure it is loaded and ready for action. “Let’s get moving. We don’t want them to have catch us.”

As the group gets moving, Ree adds, “I didn’t get too good of a look, but the terrain around the western edge of these hills,” she points directly to the north, “is pretty rough where they meet the walls of the valley. Maybe there is somewhere over there where we could get a little bit of a rest, maybe just a half hour.” She looks around at the others. “It seems that our way back is blocked, so we must go forward, but what if we set out a false trail to the west from here, and somehow went north instead, hide out in the hills there, then make a break for it?” By the time she finishes talking, all of her confidence has evaporated, turning her suggestion into nothing more than a weakly asked question.

“We’ve more than one spellcaster amongst us, and while my own gifts do not go well with subterfuge, surely you all can come up with some ideas of how we might leave a trick or a trap for our hairy friends to follow as we sneak off for the northern hills?” Draven intones

Griffin smiles at Ree. “Good plan.” He turns to the rest. “Okay, folks let’s do as she says. We head north until we hit rocky ground. That’ll hide our trail and let us throw out some trouble for anyone trying to find us.” He starts walking immediately, wanting to use the time as efficiently as possible. “Ree, Remar, Iris, can you put your thinking caps on and come up with some sort of magical trap or surprise for our pursuers, as Brother Draven has suggested?” He nods to the priest.

Griffin tries to come up with a way to make it appear that a group of horses has gone a different way than the way they actually went.  After a few moments, he snaps his fingers.

“Okay, guys, line up. Ride single file - it will hide our numbers.” There is a bit of jockeying but eventually everyone is heading the right way. He looks at Ree. “Get ‘em started towards the rocky area you were talking about. I’ll be right behind you.” He starts walking Firewild back and forth, in a generally westerly direction, as the rest of the party heads off to the north. His ears strain to detect any sound of approaching trouble. After a decent attempt to create a lot of hoofprints leading west, he leads Firewild to the northerly trail and starts covering the other tracks, making his way after the rest of his team.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment