Monday, February 25, 2013

Out of the Lair of the Hive Queen

September 5, in the year 670 by Kingdom reckoning. Afternoon

You are relieved as you watch the Hive Queen fall and release her grip on Thorvald. You have to quickly shush Kring before he bellows his triumphant war cry. Remember, there had to be something upstairs to throw the corpse you saw drop.

It takes little time to push the bodies into the green goo and they float for but a moment before sinking below the surface with a gurgle.

The party debates quietly for a moment and then a decision is made.

What will you do?

Into the Lair of the Hive Queen

September 5, in the year 670 by Kingdom reckoning. Afternoon

Chronicles of Ashmont Live Session, Part One: Desecrated Lands

Morning arrives after an uneventful night and Tom still has not show
up, leaving everyone very distraught. As everyone ate their breakfast
in an uncomfortable silence, no one spoke about their missing
companion, until Draymun finally broke the silence.
“He did say that wanted us to continue on,” the druid said between sausages.
“Aye,” Thorvald chimed in. “That is what Tom said to me before he
left… His goal should not have taken him all night however, and I fear
that if he has not returned to camp, then he has fallen.” Thor paused
as he let his words sink in and whispered a silent prayer to Thunor.
“We don’t have any evidence of his death,” Draymun replied, “so we
shouldn’t jump to any conclusions. We should continue on to the grove,
Tom will follow us if he is able. I have left markings that Tom will
most certainly notice, and any ranger of his skill would be able to
follow our wagon tracks with one eye closed.
“Agreed,” Khazad said as everyone around the breakfast fire nodded in
Packing up had become second nature to everyone, and especially Hamish
and Alis, who cleaned up after breakfast and ensured that the animals
and equipment was loaded and stored for the day’s journey.
“We should head to the north-west,” Thorvald said as he mounted
Hildabrun. “That is the direction Tom believed the Defilers were
making camp, although he did admit that it was no more than intuition.
“Agreed,” Khazad said as he set a box down upon the ground to give him
enough of a boost to clamber up into the front of wagon next to Alis.
“I have no preference for direction,” the half-orc chimed in as he
climbed atop his mount, “so long as there will be enemies to be
slain.” Hamish tied Tom’s mount to the back of the wagon and climbed
into the back to join Rethas, and Draymun nodded stoically as he
turned and whispered softly to Arktas, before taking his place upon
his mount and joining the others.
The path is not clear as the group makes their way north-west, not
seeing any sort of tracks. The blight upon the land seemed to be
getting worse faster as they made their way. What had previously been
scorched earth and fallen trees was now cracked ground and rotted
remnants of wood. The light fog that had risen from the ground grows
increasingly thick and the smell of sulphur can be distinguished.
Draymun grows increasingly unsettled and can feel himself becoming
physically sickened as the nature of the world around him becomes
increasingly defiled. As Draymun examines the evidence around him, he
begins to notice similarities between the land itself and the strange
ritual performed by the Eagle druid upon his fallen comrades.
Meanwhile, Khazad concentrates on the magical energies at work,
sensing divination and transformation magics at work. The group
travels for several hours along their path and sees no sign of any
Khazad eventually stood and climbed atop his seat. He closed his eyes
and softly whispered a prayer to Torag, asking for his guidance. When
he opened his eyes, he scanned the horizon for any signs of movement.
Not believing his eyes, Khazad notices a small group of five figures,
outlined against the horizon, about half a mile away. Reaching down,
he placed a hand upon Alis’ shoulder, as he spoke firmly.
“Come to a halt, lad,” Khazad said as those on mounts followed suit,
but moving up beside the wagon. “There are five figures out there,” he
told the others. “I can’t tell much more from this distance, but looks
like they’re heading to the grove. They’ll cross our path eventually.”
        “So what do you think?” Draymun asked, pushing his nausea at the
condition of the natural world around him to the back of his mind.
“They could be more Defilers,” he continued, “I can’t imagine anyone
else being found this far out into this tainted blight.”
        “We should attack them now,” Thor said gruffly, taking the reasons
for his statement to be self-explanatory.
“I’m always in the mood to kill,” Kring commented, showing his tusks
as a smile crept over his face. Khazad stood back up and surveyed the
landscape further, looking for any advantage in the terrain. He spots
what appears to be the remains of a small river valley, part way
between them and the strange figures in the distance. Khazad instructs
Alis to steer the wagon to the riverbed and the rest of the party
continued to follow.
When they reached the riverbed, they could see that it was fifty to
sixty feet long and was more than enough to provide cover from the
approaching enemy. It ran parallel to the path of their foes, so they
decided to set up the wagon halfway through the valley and set up
their ambush at one end.
Without much time to prepare, the group established basic battle
lines. Kring, Hamish and Thor took up positions near the front while
Draymun, Khazad and Rethas took up positions behind them, and they
waited as the calm before a storm. Alis was told to hide under the
wagon and wait for them to tell him that it was safe to proceed. After
ten minutes, the five travellers began coming down the path, and the
heroes surprised them.
There were three figures carrying quarterstaves and wearing homespun
robes, one of which had a head of hair made up entirely of snakes. The
second humanoid figure looked to be a she-wolf, covered in very thick
fur, while the third appeared to be made entirely of grasses. The
three were leading, in-between them, what appeared to be two
prisoners. The first was a terrified human in simple, homespun
clothes, and a surly dwarf stripped down to his unmentionables. In the
moment where they came into view, the party instantly recognized them
to be Defilers, despite their differences in appearance to those the
party faced in the Battle of the Tainted Wood.
Raising his weapon in the air, Khazad let the battle be joined,
hurtling his hammer with all of his might at the slithering
serpent-haired druid. The Hammer struck true before returning to
Khazad’s hand. As the hammer flew past him, Thorvald allowed the rage
of battle to consume him and as his blood boiled with a desire to
attack, he charged off in the hammer’s wake. Having come to recognize
his companion’s rage-fuelled attacks, Draymun offered the barbarian
the guidance of nature, using his powers to aid in the onslaught.
Thorvald reached the snake woman before she had regained her balance
after the hammer strike, and he brought Thunor’s Vengeance down upon
her with a mighty battlecry. His blade was slightly off-centre and it
came down hard and stuck into the snake woman’s skull, chopping off
the writhing snake-heads from her hair and sending them soaring in
several directions.
Kring was also overcome with rage of his own, and charged off to
attack the grass-druid. He brought his weapon down with a fury and
left a gaping hole in the grass upon the druid’s chest and torso. Not
wanting to be left out, Hamish joined the fray and charged after
Kring, attack the grass druid as well, but only succeeding in a
glancing blow, but as the grass-druid avoided Hamish’s assault, he
stepped into the magic missiles conjured forth from Rethas’ hands,
falling to the ground.
“Volag tobai,” Khazad shouts in dwarvish.
The surly and disrobed dwarf attempts to escape, and having seen two
other dwarves amongst the attackers, he makes his way towards them.
“Come this way, friend,” Draymun shouts out, hoping to ensure the
captive’s safe escape. “Can you defend yourself,” Dolgi asked as the
prisoner came close.
“I have no weapons,” the dwarf replied. Draymun decided to arm the
prisoner. Tossing him a sling, he took a moment and spoke the words,
crafting three magical stones which he handed to the other dwarf.
Meanwhile, the she-wolf recovered quickly from the ambush and stepped
forward, and with a vicious snarl, she reached out with her clawed
hand and grasped Thorvald by the shoulder, draining his strength and
leaving a desiccated mark upon his flesh.
Khazad responds in his kind as he reached back and threw his hammer
once more. Again the hammer sailed true and struck the she-wolf upon
the shoulder of her outstretched arm, knocking her off step, which
gave Thorvald the opening he needed. With a bestial roar even fiercer
than that of the she-wolf, Thor swung his blade at the Defiler, but
she managed to stumble out of harm’s way.
In his nearly-blind rage, Kring’s attention remained focused solely
upon the grass druid, despite having fallen unconscious. Kring raised
his mighty axe high and brought it down upon the grass druid’s face,
causing a puff of grass to hit the air in all directions as the
druid’s head exploded under the assault.
The former prisoner accepted the weapons and ammunition from his
fellow dwarf and proceeded to arm himself. As he watched Thor’s attack
fall short of the she-wolf, he took aim and let one of the magic
bullets fly through the air with all of his might. The stone struck
true, hitting the she-wolf in the stomach and causing her to lose her
breath as she let a whoosh of air. Draymun steps forward to stand
beside his dwarven comrade and takes a dart from his pouch. He holds
the dart aloft in front of him and brings his hammer forward to strike
it, sending it sailing forward. The dart caught the she-wolf in the
torso and acid splashed across her body as it exploded on contact. She
cried out in pain as she fell to the ground. Hamish took one step
forward and, flipping his sword so the blade pointed towards the
ground, he clasped it in both hands and brought it down upon the heart
of the she-wolf, killing her.
 “Is everyone alright,” Khazad asked, surveying the damage to his companions.
“Save your strength friend,” Draymun said walking up to Khazad and
placing a hand upon the cleric’s shoulder. “My goodberries will
restore our friends.”
Thor feels his blood stop boiling as he calms himself and returns his
breathing to normal. Shaking off the searing pain in his shoulder,
Thor began searching through the fallen for any valuables. He first
sees a bag with dwarven symbols upon and looked up to the newly-freed
“I take it this is your equipment?” Thor asked the dwarf, who nodded
and caught the backpack as Thor tossed it to him.
“Come friend, speak your name and tell us, what compels you to journey
in such a barren waste as this?” Draymun asked.
“My name is Dolgi Orcsmasher, and I thank you for the opportunity you
have given me to escape. I was tracking orcs in the woods when these
three set upon me and took me captive. I am a woodland skirmisher and
I have made it my responsibility to keep the encroaching orcs at bay,”
Dolgi paused and a smirk came across his face as he continued.
“Sometimes even half-orcs, if they look at me funny,” he joked as
everyone had a good laugh. Kring, however, was little amused.
As he heard the raucous laughter from the band of adventurers, the
frightened human who had hid under his arms throughout the entire
battle, finally arose from his cowering position. As he approached the
others, he finally worked up the courage to speak, and once he
started, his nervousness kept him rambling on.
“My name is Irid, and I was travelling with a caravan from Ashmont. I
was taking a leak in the trees and the next thing I knew these things
had me and I was travelling with them. I don’t even know where I am,
can you help me?”
“Do you have any useful skills?” Thor asked, sceptically eyeing the
man up and down.
“I can hoe a good row of corn,” Irid replied, unsure if that was the
answer Thor was looking for. The indifference upon Thor’s face was
enough for most to guess that it wasn’t. “Go sit in the wagon, with
Alis, our driver, and we’ll ensure you have the basics for survival
looked after.
“Where are you headed?” Irid asked.
 “You have two choices,” Kring growled at the farmer, imposing himself
in front of the man. “Get in the wagon or hit the road.”
“Are you heading to L-L-Lark any time soon?” Irid asked, even more
nervous at Kring’s overbearing nature.
“We can drop you off at Ashmont,” Khazad started, stepping between
Kring and the frightened man, “and provide you with some gold to be on
your way,” he finished.
“Gold pieces?” Irid asked with a gasp as his eyes grew three times
their former size. “You have gold pieces?” he asked again, looking
from one adventurer to another. “You must be travelling Sultans or
“We own a mine over by Lark,” Draymun chimed in, hoping to change the
subject away from their collective wealth. “It is possible that we
could be heading there in the near future.
“Aye,” Thor spoke up again, “we’ll keep you safe, or you can take your
chances alone, out there,” he said, pointing his arm in a slow
sweeping motion meant to draw Irid’s attention to the desolate
landscape. Irid looked out at what used to be a living forest and saw
only the desolation. Turning back to the group, he pointed at Kring.
“That one looks strong,” Irid said, trying to sound confident, “I’ll
stand behind him.”
“From the looks of him, you’ll be fine as long as you don’t stand down
wind from him, ha!” Dolgi said, slapping his knee as he began to laugh
heartily.  When the initial laughter died down, Kring farted as loud
as he could and again, the adventurers all had a good healthy laugh
When everyone had finally settled down, the Defiler corpses were
thrown down into the riverbed and pushed up under one of the overhangs
in the bank, so that they would not immediately be discovered by any
other Defilers who happened to pass through. As they loaded their new
equipment into the wagon, Draymun gathered everyone together.
“The Defilers were heading southwest,” he said to everyone, “so that’s
the direction we should go.”
“Aye,” Khazad piped up, “I agree.” They all nodded their agreement
before Khazad turned to their newfound companion. “Dolgi, would you
care to join us and exact some vengeance against those who had
captured you?”
“I’ll eat them for breakfast,” Dolgi said with a sly grin, as he
looked at each of the others, “and then perhaps we’ll go find some
orcs for dessert!”

The Fall of Tom Breaver

As the eagle Defiler druid left camp, Tom was slowly making a scout around the area, making sure his group was not going to be ambushed. After telling Thorvald what he knew and what he was going to do. Tom continued to scout around, looking for more clues to what was happening in the grove. As a ranger, Tom knew that what the defilers were doing wasn’t natural, despite the argument of the birdman, as the group had taken to calling him. No, even though there is death and decay in nature, all things in nature worked to provide life, not snuff it out like this.
Tom began following the druid from a distance, far enough away the druid would have had to really spend time checking his back trail to see Tom. After about a half hour, Tom realized the direction the druid was going was close to the tracks left by the wagon, but a more direct route to the road. Tom begins to close on the druid, mostly to let him know that he was following and perhaps to see how the druid might respond. By no means had Tom decided to kill him, even though he knew it probably should have been done. But, it should have been done in the right way, quick, not as Kring had done. Kring was a hothead, and he really thought of himself, not as part of a team. Tom knew that it would take time for Kring to become part of the pack.
“There, the druid noticed him. Good. Now let’s see what happens now.” Tom thought to himself. As the druid trudged along, Tom allowed his mind to wander back to his companions, his pack. Thorvald was a good man to have. He is brave and protective and willing to learn and to teach others. A raging beast in battle, but still a thinking man…to some degree, almost the opposite of Kring, who like a bull saw only red in battle, but the bull has it’s uses. Kring and Thorvald were good additions to the group. Tom was startled to see a rabbit burst from a fallen tree and in a much practiced move, Tom fells the rabbit with an arrow. He hangs the rabbit from his belt and continues following the druid.
The druid kept looking back, looking to see if Tom was closing. Tom realized how much the loss of his eagle companion had affected the druid because of how the druid kept focusing on him. Had Tom brought someone with him, that person could have flanked the druid and he probably would not have known they were there.  Finally, the druid must have tired of watching his back trail so much and settled into a routine pace. Tom’s mind began to think about the new cleric, Khazad, his faith was tested, his faith was weathered. It would be interesting to see how the cleric grew as he experienced the world outside of the temple. Oh yes, he would change or he would not survive out here.
As the druid stopped and prepared a limb to be a staff, Tom leaned on a fallen tree and thought of his oldest companion, Draymun. Draymun had power that even he didn’t know he had. Draymun was a good man, a better dwarf and a close friend. Tom was amazed what the two of them had survived, sometimes by the skin of their teeth. Tom smiles at the thoughts.
The afternoon sun is low in the sky when the druid leaves the wagon tracks and begins to head east, Tom focuses his mind on the terrain again, realizing that wool-gathering can be dangerous in the woods and after a few minutes of looking around, Tom realizes the druid is heading toward the river. As night begins to fall the druid reaches the river and begins to make camp. After the druid gets a small fire going, Tom hails the camp. The druid looks at Tom with a weary expression and nods solemnly, pointing to a spot on the other side of the fire.
Tom sits down across the fire from the druid and begins to clean and spit the rabbit. Sitting the rabbit over the fire, Tom looks over at the druid. "So, are you wondering why I am here?"

The druid pulls some of the jerky from his sack of rations and bites off a big chunk.

"I assume you've been sent to make sure I hold to my word," he holds up his hand to show Tom the wound from Khazad's blood oath.

"I've not been sent anywhere, but the gist of your comment holds. See back there you were scared and outnumbered and oaths made in your situation might be overruled by your faith, your grief or your slighted pride. Out here..." Tom shrugs and leans down and turns the rabbit some. "I am here to make sure your oath means something, even though some of the group's oaths might not mean anything to the rest of us. And I am here to see what kind of predator you are.” Tom glances at the druid as he finishes the sentence.

The druid laughs, but it is a short chortle and there's no happiness in his eyes, "you keep company with strange fellows indeed."

He pauses.

"Stalk me as long as you wish, I am no predator."

"In nature, we are either predator or prey. But I have not come to argue theory. I've come to ask you a simple question, remember I am but a simple man." Tom smirks "The question is this. Will you return to your group? Or will you break your oath? Oh, feel free to have some rabbit."

He grins slyly, "what of vultures then, simple one? They take what is left when the prey, and the predators," he winks "are dead."

"To answer your question: your short, ugly friend charged me with traveling to the road and that is what I will do. From there I will go where the winds take me. You must realize there's no place for me in polite society, looking like I do."

"Perhaps. More importantly, will you return to your Is that what you would call it?” Tom glances up the druid as he turns the spit again, “And perhaps we are all predator and prey?"

"Of course I will continue following the Lady Oughing, it is my nature."

"Hrm, that is disappointing. See, I suspect we are going to have to root out the cause of the blight at the druid grove. I am guessing her followers might have something to do with that?"

The druid sighs, "As I have already told you, they do. Just like a colony of ants, you and your druid friend must attack my colony, and they must defend it."

"Well, this is a problem, but you already knew that. So, let me make you a promise, first time today, even. I thought about what I might say to you when we had this conversation. And quite simply, I am not that good of speaker.” Tom’s eyes become hard as he stares at the druid, “But here is my oath. If I see you at the colony, if I see you in battle, I will find your eagle and I will kill it first. Then I will kill you. Please do not return to the colony. If you break the oath you made to the young dwarf, it will damage his already shaky faith. And he is a member of my pack. And I will die to protect my pack." With that Tom stands.

He shrugs, "I'm tired of your threats. Fight me or leave me."

He pokes the fire absently and takes another bite of jerky.

"See, no one takes my oath seriously, perhaps it is my age, perhaps my height or build." Tom sighs. "No, this is no threat it is an oath. For what it is worth, I am sad that my friend killed your friend after he surrendered. He needs to work on that. But asking the wolf to not howl is hard. I'll leave you to your journey. Your oath was made, try not to howl, do not return to your group. Safe travels." Tom nods to the druid and drops a gold coin in the dirt by the fire.
"For your journey." Tom leaves the fire and begins to head back to the wagon.
Tom spends the first 30 minutes moving stealthily through the woods, using the darkening sky to see where he is going and making sure he is not followed. Tom didn’t think the druid would do that, but it pays to be careful.
After about a mile or so, Tom stops and lights a torch, so he can move faster and hopefully get back to the wagon before the first watch ends. He will need to sleep, it’s been a long day, a log couple of days even.  About an hour and a half from the camp, Tom hears several heavy figures moving through the forest. Unfortunately, his senses are dulled by the darkness and how tired he is becoming. Almost immediately, Tom sees 3 orcs appear at the edge of his torch and hurl javelins at him. He dodges two of them, but the third bangs off his left thigh. Dropping his torch and equipping his shield, Tom prepares to do battle, knowing there is no way he can outrun these orcs.
As Tom closes in on the orc on the right side, Tom keeps his shield between him and the others, he feints high, the orc tries to counter with his arms, but Tom swings his sword down and cuts deeply into the orc’s belly. The orcs then draw Falchions and attack, but Tom is too fast and makes them miss. Tom’s defensive maneuvers make it hard for him to get a good shot in and the orc easily parries the blow.
The orcs seem to execute a feint on their next attack, Tom dodges the right hand orc’s attack, blocks the middle orc’s attack but that leaves him open to a massive blow from the left hand orc. The orc’s Falchion drives deep into Tom’s back, the only thing that saves him from a mortal wound is his chain shirt.
The right hand orc is out of position and Tom’s sword finds his mark, the orc growls fiercely and barely stays on his feet. Tom howls in victory. And as he turns to face the two other orcs, his howl is cut short by the sight of the middle orc slashing down with his Falchion, Tom is completely helpless, his shield is blocking the left hand orc’s attack and his sword is still coming through the body of the right hand orc.
Tom’s mind flashes his life before his eyes, his companion’s faces staring at him. Draymun, Kring, Thorvald and Khazad, all look at him. As the Falchion bites into Tom’s neck, Tom realizes that like Kring, he’s been too much of a lone wolf, he should have brought one of them with him. The pack is greater than the sum of its parts.  As the life drains from Tom’s eyes and he slumps to the ground, Tom realizes how much he will miss the pack….

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Onward toward the Grove

September 5, in the year 670 by Kingdom reckoning. Morning

You move a bit further down the trail so as to be away from the battle site. You set up camp and everyone is in a dour mood for quite some time. Things brighten up, however, when Hamish manages to put an arrowhead under Alis as he's sitting down. Draymun cracks first and before long everyone is laughing, even Alis.

It's a quiet evening spent in leisure. It's easy to forget the darkness and desolation right outside the firelight when you fall into the routine of camp.

The night passes uneventfully but you grow more and more concerned about Tom.

In the morning, Tom has still not shown up.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Druid Grove

September 4, in the year 670 by Kingdom reckoning

The camp is restless and jumpy the rest of the night but you do finally settle down and get some much needed sleep. The sentries report very little movement at all over night. In the morning, Sina arrives riding on a green stag and she tells you her story over breakfast.

The druids grove centers around an ancient tree, most druids know the grove is a source of power but few know where that power comes from. Beneath the tree, and she has trouble explaining this part, is some sort of gateway or portal that the fey use to travel between their realm and the material plane (your world.) She says when the gnome exodus occurred, many of her clan used this gateway to escape.

In the past few weeks, the area surrounding the grove has begun to mutate and wither. The trees are turning black and animals are dying or being transformed into abberations. She says the taint is spreading outward and somehow strengthening inward, so that the grove itself is now under direct magical attack.

If that tree is turned, there's no telling what will happen to the balance of nature in the area or the portal to the feywild.

She offers to lead you through the forest on a secret route that will get you to the edge of the taint by mid afternoon.