Grand Duchy 75

Grand Duchy of Adventure

Session 75 December 12, 2015 - January 13, 2016

Mountain Rain

Nytdain 22 Yarthmont

Unhappy Skies

The constant rain covers the ancient road with water
The Grey Company quickly makes their way to the far side of the ancient bridge, watching the skies for more signs of the swooping and hungry Griffons. The rain continues to fall, making everything slippery and wet. Water pours off the mountainside nearly flooding the road in places, making travel very difficult. The food supplies are running low, especially after it was noticed that several pieces of Elven Waybread had been destroyed in Firewild’s fall. The group huddles together under the slight protection of a narrow outcropping above, resting for a moment before pushing on. Remar stands calmly a bit away from the party, out in the rain but smiles coyly while the shimmering stone circles magically around his head, keeping him as dry as if he were sitting comfortably inside in front of a fire. “So, what’s next? Keep movin’ on? Seems pointless to head back at this point,” he says cheerfully.
“Indeed, no point to abandoning our quest at this point. We’ll make it, one way or another, and between our wits and the protection of the gods, we’ll not go hungry,” Draven says.
“In fact, the sooner we get moving the better. Let’s saddle up everyone,” he suggests, trying to put a bit of cheer in his voice, though not expecting much given how sodden everything is becoming.
Griffin winces at Draven’s upbeat tone. He is still haunted by the look in Firewild’s eyes as she slid into the abyss. He’d done everything he could to make it safe for the horses to cross. Everyone else’s had made it. What had he done wrong?
He takes a deep breath. Suck it up, man. Shit happens. If he started moping around because his horse died, how could he expect to lead this group?
He sighs. “Okay, team, Draven’s right. We’ve faced down dragons before. We’re certainly not going to let a little rain slow us down. I’ll take point. Let’s see what’s over that next ridge.” He stands and throws his saddle bags over his shoulder.  
“No need to burden yourself, brother,” suggests Draven when he sees Griffin’s load. “We’re all afoot for the time being, and Softie here can easily accommodate a little more weight on his sturdy back.” Mr. Softie replies to this with a disgusted sounding whinny. “Hush, you.”
Griffin manages a small smile. “Thank you, Brother. I appreciate that.” He throws his bags onto Softie.
The sodden Grey Company presses on, making their way slowly but surely up the mountain trail. They stop occasionally to scout the nearby area with climbing and magic, but the rain and terrain reduce visibility considerably. Eventually, late in the afternoon, they come upon yet another obstacle to their progress.

The Broken Bridge

Another stone bridge lays in front of them, across a narrow gorge. The problem is, the bridge has been mostly destroyed, probably by a rockslide or some other force of nature. The gap between the two ends of the bridge is only about 6 or 7 yards, but much too far to jump or get the horses across magically. Upon closer inspection, there appears to be two possible paths to get past. Both routes follow the broken ground down into the ravine, one to the left appears to be a slightly easier route down to the bottom then back up to the other side, though a slip and fall on this side could result in falling out into the valley below while the “path” off to the right seems steeper and more uneven, a fall would not be as permanent or far. It will probably take the remainder of the day to get all the horses down into the ravine and back up to the other side, even if multiple horses are taken at once. Taking a slow, careful approach, it should take one horse close to 3 hours to bypass the broken bridge by itself, though the crossing could be staggered by about 15 minutes each to save time.
Considering the last crossing, Draven needs no prompting. “We should take this slow and safe, along to the right, one horse at a time. We might even do well to unburden them first. We don’t want any… further accidents.”
Everyone nods in sullen agreement, realizing that there is no possible way to get even more wet and begins unloading the horses. It is decided that someone should go down first to scout the path and be on the look-out for any other dangers.
With but one hand, for all that the stump had begun to itch intensely and was always pink and raw, Draven volunteers for the scouting mission this time. “I’ve got a good set of eyes on me, and these boots in case I slip or anything. I’m not much help at unloading the horses anyway.” Brooking no argument, and expecting little in any case, he heads along the path, holy symbol at the ready, moving cautiously and pausing often to listen and look for possible ambush points.
Looking over the team and the tasks at hand, Griffin nods and says, “Marcel! Best if Draven isn’t doing this solo, just in case he runs into trouble. You go ahead - we’ll get the horses unloaded.” Griffin’s Elven cloak is up, and the rain drips off the hood. “Iris and I will work with the horses to get them calmed down before we start our descent.”
With a nod, Marcel follows Draven down into the ravine, carefully stepping and looking for the best possible route for the horses. It looks like it is going to be tough going regardless of the rain or shadowy light in the gorge. After about 10 minutes, the two companions finally make it down to the bottom of the ravine. A narrow trickle of water flows down the center. Draven begins scanning the far side for a path back up while Marcel pokes around, looking around the base of the ravine. He looks back over his shoulder and realizes that he cannot see his other companions back at the top due to the uneven terrain. He cannot hear them either, over the rain, though an occasional horse snort can be discerned.

Trouble at the Bottom of the Ravine

Draven calls for Marcel, indicating what looks like it might be a path back up to the far side of the broken bridge. As the two approach, Draven brings his right arm up, covering his nose with the inside of his elbow. “What is that smell?” he asks, his words muffled by the folds of his sleeve. Marcel squints and scrunches up his nose and points with his spear toward a dark spot on the side of the ravine near where Draven’s path leads up. “Coming from there, I think,” the Traladaran says. Marcel crouches down, jams the butt of his spear into the wet and rocky ground and holds his hand above his eyes, trying to shield them from the falling rain. As he does so, the sound of something scrambling over rocks comes from the mouth of the cave. A thick waft of sour air hits Draven and Marcel as a large, disgusting lizard comes charging out of the opening. The creature is at least 10’
The resident of the ravine is not happy with intruders
long from nose to tail, covered with bumpy, pale, olive colored skin and large curved spikes along its neck and back. It’s wide, splayed toes end in sharp talons and a long, purple tongue flicks out of its mouth, returning to hide behind rows of small, sharp teeth. It’s wide eyeballs rotate independently, examining the entirety of the ravine before focusing back on Draven and Marcel. It tenses and lurches forward to attack!
No time to fumble with his awkward shield, Draven lets his holy symbol fall back to his chest and grabs up his mace, preparing for the onrushing lizard. Have to trust to staying away from those teeth and claws rather than the trusty shield.
Marcel steps up next to Draven and contemplates readying his shield also. Seeing as his companion has decided not to, Marcel drops his and takes his spear up in two hands, watching the rapidly approaching lizard.
The oncoming creature zigs and zags as it approaches, keeping low to the ground and at the last minute, it veers to Draven’s side then darts in, snapping its sharp-toothed mouth at the priest’s unarmored leg.
Meanwhile, up above, near the base of the broken bridge, Griffin, Iris and the others continue unloading the horses of their gear and waiting for a signal from their companions down below to let them know that they should begin sending horses down. Griffin peers down the rocky slope into the darkened ravine trying to catch a glimpse of his friends, but finds no sign of them. He adjusts the collar of his cloak again and wonders what they might be up to.
Anticipating the attack, Draven jumps back, leading the lizard to land on a loose stone. Landing hard and lurching to one side, it wobbles but doesn’t quite fall, scrambling for purchase in the loose rocks underfoot. Taking the opening, Draven steps in and aims a mighty blow at the creature’s head but misjudges the rocky terrain and widely misses, nearly taking a tumble himself.
Seeing Draven swing and miss, Marcel steps forward and turns toward the lizard, hoping to take advantage of its misstep. He swings his shield out to the left, hoping to catch the lizard on the back of the head but the creature jerks its head out of the way at the last second. With its attention focused on the shield, though, the creature fails to dodge the incoming spear strike, angled low to catch its underside. Marcel’s spear penetrates the lizard’s rough hide deeply, nearly poking out the other side. The creature lets out a deep croaking sound and spits blood all over Draven in the process.
Draven and Marcel engage the large, smelly lizard at the bottom of the ravine
The lizard then lurches back, away from Marcel and his spear, turns and begins crawling away, much slower than it moved when it initially approached. A dark smear of blood and guts can be seen on the rocky ground in its wake.
“Do we chase after it,” Draven asks Marcel, “is it good to eat, do you suppose?”
Marcel ponders this question for a brief moment as they watch the giant lizard clamber back into its dark hole, “Yes, I am sure that I can cook up something suitable for a king, of course,” he then looks around again, and back up the slope, squinting his eyes as the raindrops pelt his face, “but I think we have more pressing matters at hand. We need to get our caravan to the other side of this ravine before nightfall, and as it is, it seems we might be running out of time. We can scout the path back up and once we start the process of moving the horses through, I will stand guard by the lizard’s front door. If it comes back out, we will use it to supplement our rations. If we have enough time after crossing, or maybe in the morning even, we can go back after it. I think my spear found its mark. I would bet the creature does not live through the night. One strike from sorcerous Marcel is all it takes, now all lizard kind will know not to stand in my way!” He puffs his chest out and grits his teeth as if posing for a portrait, then laughs. “Let’s see where this path goes,” he motions toward their best bet at getting back up to the road.
Draven and Marcel both have trouble with the climb to the other side, but in doing so, they discover the best possible path for the horses and make it back to the top. From the far side of the broken bridge, they call and wave to their companions back on the other side. It looks as if they are just about done unloading the horses and will be ready to start moving through the ravine by the time they climb back. Sporting scraped hands and bruised legs, they both head back down into the ravine, keeping a careful watch on the dark opening to the lizard’s cave. Marcel takes up a position at the bottom of the wet ravine and signals Draven to go on back up and show the others the best route while he watches for the lizard.
Draven makes it back up and explains the route to Griffin, Iris and the others. Ree grabs her horse’s saddle bags and looks at Draven, “Ok Brother, lead the way.” Draven grabs some extra gear and Mr. Softie’s reins and heads down, leading Ree along the narrow and slippery path.
The fate that befell poor Griffin’s horse fresh and vivid in his mind, Draven has a hard time keeping Softie calm, but the horse has seen tougher roads since joining the party and seems to take his nervousness in stride.
It takes nearly 2 hours but Draven and Ree make it safely across. Marcel reports that he has detected no activity from the lizard hole when they passed him. Draven offers to watch the horses on this side as Ree heads back across to help the next group. The young priest was familiar with the path now, but beginning to tear himself up a bit more than he expected. The climb was rough, especially with the use of only one hand. Ree could remember the trail easily enough and help the others back across.
The next trip consisted of Ree leading Marcel’s horse, Roxanne, along with Stephan and his mount, Ruby. The rain finally eased up a bit, though it did not make for much easier going as the ground was already as saturated as it could get. Ruby and Roxanne struggle along the passage quite a bit, but both horses manage to make it across safely.
Ree heads back for one final trip to lead the rest of the group and the final 2 horses across. Ree assists Iris in leading Duke and Griffin helps Remar with Alpha, though Remar quietly defers to Griffin, realizing that he has a much more even hand when it comes to the horses.
By the time the Company has all made it to the far side of the fallen bridge, night is approaching and it is clearly time to set up camp. The rain seems to have moved on finally, though everything is still soaking wet and slick. Griffin locates the driest spot available on the mountainside, though it is far from comfortable, it is somewhat concealed and with darkness closing in, the Company accepts it as their best option.
Camp is made and everyone nearly collapses from the exhaustion of the day’s hike. On top of the tiredness, the Company is a bit disheartened at the thought that they probably only hiked a mile or two the entire day due to the weather and the terrain. Remar weaves his magic mist around the camp and then proceeds to climb immediately into his bunk. Marcel begins to pull out his cooking gear, then stops, passes out Elven Rations and also finds his sleeping blanket. The night is calm and dark, the half illuminated moon often covered by light clouds, not enough to block its light, but enough to obscure its view.

Loshdain 23rd of Yarthmont

Plodding Along

The sun rises the following day and fog has filled the valley below as it has before. Though it is early, the sun beats down warm already and the air is moist, nearly everything has a dampness to it. “It’s gonna be a hot one today,” Griffin mutters as he rubs the sleep from his eyes and helps load gear onto the horses he had Iris have spent the last half hour preparing.
Shortly after getting back on the trail, the Company rounds a bend that juts out over the narrow river valley below and, looking back, can see nearly the entire route they have traversed over the last few days, snaking back and forth between the ravines and crags of the Black Peaks. With squinted eyes, Ree is almost sure she can even see the round structure on the bridge at the top of the waterfall.
“Look, there it is, just there, to the right and below that jagged peak,” she points off into the distance. As she looks, her face darkens. “Oh. Oh no. I think I can see another group moving across the bridge. Do you think it is that blasted wizard, Golthar, and his slavers? It could be the Gnolls finally getting up enough courage to climb the tower.” She continues to strain her eyes trying to see more but cannot as whatever she thinks she saw passes from view behind intervening rocks.
“Are we worried about them following us,” Stephan asks. “I am sure we have left plenty of signs of our passage, if they didn’t observe us enter the tower in the first place. We can leave some traps or just try to hurry on and keep ahead of them. Unless they are expert mountain climbers, I would assume it will take them at least as long to get to this point as we did.”
Remar chimes in, “Yea, but you forget, that Golthar is a wizard. He can fly. We don’t know the capabilities of his other allies either. Some of them were dark priests or wizards too for all we know!”
“I’d welcome the chance to take some dark priests down,” says Draven, “but there’s precious little to be gained by worrying or wasting time. I say we redouble our efforts and try to make as much of the lead we have.”
Griffin nods his head. “Wise words, brother. We don’t know what the evil mage’s purpose is here. Best to keep moving, find what we can before he arrives. Perhaps a more defensible position, at the very least.” He ponders. “Although except for the ability to fly that Remar mentioned, that canyon climb would have made a great place for an avalanche ambush.” He looks thoughtful. How does one defend against someone who can fly? “Don’t give his magical gifts too much credit. We’ve seen how tiring even the simplest magics can be for our own mages, and he isn’t free from such worries himself. Don’t ascribe to him fearsome traits he likely does not own, lest we find ourselves afraid of our own shadows next. The righteous man walks in the clear light of day and is saved by the will of the Lady of Justice.” Draven pauses, realizes he started in on his pulpit voice, and returns to speaking normally. “All the same, the good gods help those who help themselves, so let’s get a move on.”

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

Precis - The Grey Company deals with hazards from above and below. The rain continues falling and they find a giant, angry lizard in a gorge!

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