Friday, May 24, 2013

"The Story So Far" - Part Four - "The Magic Statue"

"The Story So Far" is an ongoing series recanting the details of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign that I've been running on and off since 2002.  Links to the previous entries can be found here:  

Prologue                           Part I                                        Part II                                    Part III

I've "fictionalized" the session reports in a vague attempt to make them more "entertaining".  

And now, our story continues...

Solstice 22, 1492

Using familiar landmarks and the crude map etching from the back of the shield, the group tried to pinpoint the relative position of the mysterious cave.  After hiking northeast along the path towards the dwarven hall for several hours, they finally saw the cavern's uninviting, dark maw in the distance.

Even worse, the entrance to the den was absolutely swarming with bats.  Even after they managed to navigate past them, the group then encountered a considerably more dangerous threat: a massive ogre fast asleep in the next chamber.

Unfortunately their attempt to sneak past the slumbering brute was undone by Pol’s clanking armor, but she quickly made amends by going toe-to-toe with the thing.  As the two exchanged brutal blows, Roman kept the amazon on her feet with some well-timed healing spells.  In a last tactical gamble, Pol managed to clip the ogre in the neck, inflicting a serious wound.  Frustrated with her own stalled sorcery, Lorelei through caution to the wind, jumped into the fray and delivered the coup de grâce with her staff.

After recovering from this vicious scrap, the Fellowship ventured further into the cave only to discover that Erelos had already beaten them to the punch!  After successfully sneaking past the dozing ogre the lone thief was now attempting to breach a locked door leading to the next room.  Despite some tense parley that nearly resulted in an all-out brawl, Bria managed to convince her peers that a temporary alliance with the rogue made sense.  Now united, the two thieves quickly worked together to defeat the lock.

When the heavy iron door was finally pushed open, the Fellowship craned their collective necks to see what was inside.  The room was dominated by the odd sight of a ten-foot high statue of a red frog with green gems for eyes right in the middle of the room.  As the group slowly inched their way into the room they suddenly heard the disconcerting sound of chains dragging on the ground.  A huge dog with red, glowing eyes emerged from behind the statue, growling menacingly and testing the limits of its metal tether.  Each time it exhaled, a puff of smoke could be seen issuing from its cruel-looking muzzle.

Noting a sizable treasure chest lying in the far corner of the room, the Fellowship set about getting past the ogre's incendiary pet.  Fortunately they managed to avoid a fracas this time by tapping into the magical powers of the statue to defeat the beast.  After recovering the frog statue's bulbous ruby peepers, the Fellowship attempted to overcome a fiendishly difficult trap / lock combination on the treasure chest.  When this was accomplished, they opened the chest to find a slew of gold crowns and some Gauntlets of Ogre Power.  Encouraged by his de facto leadership thus far, the group decided to award this fabulous new discovery to Roman!

Overconfidence almost led to ruin, however, when the team was ambushed by a goblin patrol returning to the cave.  Despite being exhausted and mystically tapped-out, the crusaders managed to rally and  overcome the unexpected threat.  After the dust settled, the group gave Erelos his share of the loot and the rogue departed on good terms.

Later that evening the Fellowship arrived back in Castebridge.  Although it was raining, the temperature was mild and the group was in genuinely good spirits.

Unfortunately, this good karma was short-lived.  Just as soon as they cleared the north gate, the group was intercepted by the town guard who were under orders to escort them directly to the Mayor's office.  Although clearly under a gag order, Lorelei's former bodyguard Barant couldn't resist leaking a few details to his friends:

"Where have you been?!?" he whispered under is breath.  "We've been scouring the town all day long looking for you people!  The Mayor's furious!"

"What happened?" Lorelei quizzed.

"A platoon of ten town guard led by Edward’s son William were sent out to escort a merchant caravan from Footholde into town.  Apparently a hoard of orcs were lying in wait just outside the mouth of Cragmore canyon.  They ambushed the caravan, killed all of the guards and pillaged the wagons."

Just as Barant had warned, Denneth practically flew into the group on sight.

"You’ve been retained by the town of Castebridge to be available whenever your needed!  It isn’t your place to go gallivanting off whenever it suits you!  If you'd been around, that caravan would probably be safe within our walls right now!"

After receiving some hasty apologies, Denneth finally calmed down enough to continue.

"The orcs sent one guard back alive with a message," he said.  "They're demanding almost a year’s harvest as ransom.  I'm telling your right now, if we accept those terms we might as well condemn our people to starvation this winter."

He then fixed the group with a sober stare.

"I need you to find their warren, rescue the caravan, and defeat those mongrels.  Against my better judgement, I’m prepared to offer each of you two-hundred and twenty-five gold crowns for the successful completion of this mission.

"Nearly half the town's militia was been wiped out, so you’ll be on your own.  Moira at the parish has graciously offered to donate five healing elixirs to aid in your efforts."

The Mayor gestured for the group to approach his desk, where a large parchment map of the area was laid out.  Denneth wearily began to gesture towards relevant points on the map as he continued his lecture.

"The orc lair is somewhere here, deep in Cragmore canyon southwest of town.  The lone guard who came back alive believes that the orcs will be overconfident after their victory and won’t be expecting a counter-attack.  But in order to achieve the element of surprise, you'll have to leave immediately."

Battered, tired and low on resources, the Fellowship had been expecting nothing more taxing then a good night's sleep.  Instead they were now being asked to venture out again and tangle with a bloodthirsty band of orcs.  Needless to say, it took some time before our intrepid heroes could come to grips with the enormity of their task and venture back out again.

To be continued...

Photo credits:

Cave entrance:




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