Andrew's character: Gur'ash Ironjaw - Half Orc Fighter (Lvl 4) (Soldier)
Dave's character: Darrius Evermier - Human Rogue (Lvl 4) (Criminal)
Garreth's character: Lucius Glimmerscale - Dragonborn Sorcerer (Lvl 4) (Noble)
Steph's character: Fauna and her wolf 'Echo' - Tiefling Ranger (Lvl 4) (Outlander)
Steve's character: Sharn Blightender - Half Elf Ranger (Lvl 4) (Folk Hero)
The Heroes of Oakvale (Part Three) - 'Cellioed'
Near exhaustion after their rescue of the Hobgoblins hostages the party is forced to rest despite being still pursued as they no longer have the reserves of energy to continue. The beginning of this adventure can be found here.
Act One - 'Reunions'
A number of possible plans were discussed including finding a place to make a defensive position to make a stand and hiding and hoping the enemy passed them amongst others but after the rangers assurances that their pursuers definitely contained none of the giants from the camp it was decided to just make a break for the edge of the forest and hope that they could get away before their trail was picked up.
The recently rescued youths from Oakvale were no doubt slowing them down and the parties less stealthy members were also creating problems but under the expert guidance of their rangers Fauna and Sharn combined with Faunas detailed local knowledge enabled them to overcome these limiting factors and get back to their carriage and camp-site without incident. The horses were somewhat skittish when approached but Fauna quickly managed to calm them and without delay they boarded their transport and with all due haste returned to the relatively save haven of the town of Oakvale.
The reunion of the rescued villagers with their parents was a tearful but joyful affair and after a diplomatic pause the promised reward was asked for and received. As was now their practice a proportion of the reward was put to one side and the rest was distributed equally before they returned to their respective places of rest in order to recover their strength.
While recovering in their tavern base of operations Lucius received a message from the Willowwoods inviting him and his companions to their home as a thank-you for their help in clearing the undead threat to their forestry business and a moment after completing it's reading was approached by the bard from a few evenings ago who issued an apology for his rendition of a certain song involving a Dragonborn and a young lady stating that had he been aware of Lucius's presence he would have picked a different song. Lucius who being unable to find an opponent was playing chess against himself asked the bard if he knew how to play and after his conformation they sat down to a game while discussing local events. The bard was from the capital city and was surprisingly knowledgeable on a wide variety of historical and current events as well as being a formidable chess player with their game ending in a draw.
Editors Note - This was a bit annoying as you get to roll with an advantage (two dice, pick the highest) if you're using your own gaming kit so I expected to kick his ass...
Between Lucius's conversation with the bard and the others various discussions with locals curious about the parties latest triumph a number of rumours had been picked up. A sword of unusual appearance had been discovered near the woods, sightings of the normally elusive forest elves had increased and reports that banditry was on the increase were the main sources of gossip locally. Gur'ash went to investigate rumours of this mysterious sword, Sharn went to see if he could source some items from the market while Lucius sought out both a bath-house and a local tailor to sort out several annoying little tears and minor damage to his clothing. Fauna had discovered to her annoyance that the groups new found local fame meant that her haven in the stables was constantly being disturbed by people wishing to chat or simply gawp at her and so after stocking up on crossbow bolts at the weapons store in the marketplace moved into the room that had been acquired for her at the tavern as at least that had a lockable door.
Act Two - 'Rumours'
Editors Note - I fully expect our DM to start adding up how much Gur'ash's rapidly expanding weapons collection weighs as he's picked something up from every encounter we've been in so far...
Sharn's own enquiries were unfortunately less successful as the kind of magical items he was looking for were either too rare or too expensive to be kept in stock locally. His search for healing items was also somewhat of a failure though he did pick up some snippets of information indicating that the bard in town had some skill in the healing arts. He did however manage to acquire several experimental alchemically and magically enhanced arrowheads which despite being somewhat expensive at forty gold coins a piece promised to deliver additional electrical damage to their target though he was told that they hadn't exactly been tested properly yet due to the expensive materials used in their manufacture.
With Lucius no longer present the bard decided to look elsewhere for entertainment and instead approached Darrius with a set of cards in hand and asked him if he wished to make a small wager on a game which the rogue was happy to accept. As was in his nature Darrius immediately started to cheat and was intrigued when he noticed that the bard was also himself cheating. What followed would have been to any skilled enough observer a master class in cheating, trick dealing, card switching and any number of other dirty tricks and finding themselves of equal skill the pair managed to cheat themselves into a draw. Both exchanged knowing glances and then immediately launched into a second somewhat more light-hearted game of cards in full knowledge of what the other had been attempting during the previous encounter. During the subsequent more casual games Darrius also picked up some rumours that the bard had picked up on his journey including some disturbing tales of the spreading taint locally and the increase in thieves and highwaymen on the trails between the towns.
On a whim Lucius decided to go and see the halfling Frederick as though his fellow adventurers were concerned about rumours of dark forces at work he himself was concerned about the obviously far more important local economic issues of none payment of tithes by one local town. Frederick was to be found in the town office and was in uncharacteristic poor humour berating the local clerks about a wide variety of local economic and logistic issues which were quite fascinating to the dragonborn and utterly tedious to his companions. Lucius was keen to investigate any issue that may impact upon trade through the area as this was one of the main concerns that had resulted in his people sending a diplomatic envoy to the area in the first place but his companions were far more keen to return to the forest kingdom of the elves to warn them of the army of hobgoblins and giants amassing on their doorstep.
The debate about what should be their priority went back and forth until Fauna put forward the argument that the forest elves had both scouts and magical scrying talents that could be used to investigate the issues that concerned Lucius and seeing that his colleagues were determined to deal with this problem first he somewhat reluctantly agreed to assist them with this quest as long as his own priority was dealt with immediately afterwards. It looked like another journey into the forest was ahead of them.
Editors Note - I don't know how the other characters feel but Lucius is already sick to death of forests...they're dirty and you have to travel through them without being in a comfy carriage...also apparently every bit of forest locally is full of things that want to kidnap you, kill you or eat you...or some combination thereof...
It was only later that it occurred to him that he hadn't actually mentioned ownership of the tome to any-one outside of the group with him when he had acquired it. After the deal was done Quinn mentioned that she knew of the location of several ancient tombs containing items that she would be willing to pay handsomely for should they be brought to her and Lucius promised to consider taking the quest on once their immediate commitments were done with. Quinn assured him that there was no particular hurry...this fact in of itself would no doubt have raised an alarm had Lucius not been distracted by his new acquisition.
Act Three - 'Return'
Before their departure Sharn suggested they should recruit the bard to accompany them on this possibly dangerous mission as he had information that he had some talents in the healing arts and so they approached him in the tavern. Though reluctant at first he was finally convinced by Fauna informing him that the journey may well lead as far as the elven forest city of Cellioed and the assurance that any out of pocket expenses would be covered. They followed the route they'd travelled along previously before diverting slightly in order to circumnavigate the hobgoblin camp that had caused them such problems previously along a route that Fauna assured them was the most efficient. As they expected the trail soon became to densely populated with trees and tangled undergrowth so they were forced to abandon their transport. Fauna first ensured that the horses were both secure and safe as well as providing adequate food should they be gone for longer than expected.
Editors Note - Or more correctly Fauna's player annoyed the DM and strangely enough the plan failed utterly immediately afterwards...
Much to her and Sharns irritation the only really viable route of which they were aware led them back into the very area that contained the hobgoblins base of operations before turning back towards the elven city. After some discussion it was decided to take the risk and those with an aptitude for stealth taking the lead. Needless to say this left Gur'ash and Lucius bringing up the rear.
Fauna's curiosity was aroused when she failed to detect the expected noise from the enemy camp with Sharn himself also registering his surprise. Darrius decided to sneak closer and see if he could shed any light on this new development. Darrius approached carefully and reported back to Fauna and Lucius via the sending stones they shared that a monstrous many headed reptilian creature had devastated the camp and was currently gorging itself on the bodies of it's hobgoblin and giant victims. From the description Fauna identified it as a Hydra, a fearsome forest predator that legend had it was created from the blood of the defeated ancient dragon that once ruled this forest kingdom. She also was quick to point out that if the creature had not yet detected their scent it would be sure to do so imminently and it would be far better to attack the creature while it was unaware and apparently weakened from it's assault on the camp rather than let it dictate the manner of it's attack upon them. Seeing no reason to doubt her word they advanced closer and prepared themselves for battle.
Editors Note - Fauna has a thing about forests so it's also possible that she just wanted a threat to it destroyed and so told us whatever she thought would get us to help out...
The Hydra seemed unaware of their approach presumably due to being busy consuming the bodies of the fallen and so the party managed to move into position unnoticed. Once every-one was in position Lucius unleashed a chromatic orb of magical lightning into the centre of the mass of heads and was somewhat satisfied to see several damaged and one torn apart by the blast. Darrius moved around the creature looking for a likely spot for a sneak attack followed by a quick getaway but could so no decent spot so instead sought cover behind a large tree and awaited a better opportunity. Gur'ash moved around in an attempt to flank the monstrosity as his lack of ranged weaponry meant that he would likely be the one in the most danger when he attacked and hoped that when he did do he could engage the creature where it couldn't bring all it's heads to bear. Fauna and Sharn unleashed a hail of bolts and arrows at any head remaining relatively still or any spot that looked vaguely vulnerable with Fauna also attempting to tangle several heads together but met with only limited success.
A second wave of lightning blasts, cloud of dagger spells, bolts, arrows and a perfectly timed axe blow from Gur'ash removed several more of the mass of reptilian heads but just as their confidence was growing an unpleasant surprise occurred as each removed head was immediately replaced with two as it charged towards the exact spot where Lucius was standing. Having previously had a bad experience with a stray lightning bolt in their journey through the temple of Myrkul Lucius had been working on a Sorcerous spell to save himself from future injury and this seemed like an ideal time to test the result as he promptly disappeared in a cloud of silvery mist appearing some thirty feet away behind the Hydra as the creature stampeded through the now unoccupied location into a large tree which it promptly tore to the ground.
Editors Note - Sorcerer's powers are meant to be internally generated so it makes sense that as I level up I take spells based on role-playing situations that have occurred rather than spontaneously gaining spells that though useful are implausible to suddenly be able to do. Though not optimal from a power-gaming point of view I'm happier as a role-player doing it this way...Also our DM is far more likely to say yes to things if you can justify them from a role-playing point of view...
Recalling that she had heard that creatures such as these were vulnerable to fire Fauna put away one of her crossbows and attempted to use a torch to set fire to the now fallen tree in the hope that this would drive the hydra backwards while Gur'ash wisely decided to ignore the monsters regenerating heads and instead tried to immobilise it by crippling it's legs. Seeing that Fauna who seemed to have knowledge of this particular breed of monster was attempting to use fire as a weapon the dragonborn sorcerer switched from lightning attacks to flaming ones and his next magical projectile did significantly more damage then the previous one.
Several uncannily accurately shot arrows arced out of the edge of the clearing into vulnerable spots in the Hydra's now heavily wounded body followed by a strange looking bolt of magical fire from a spell that Lucius didn't recognise and this additional weight of fire combined with their own attacks finally bought the terrifying monstrosity crashing to the ground.
The small group of forest elves were led by a mage and informed the group that they had been tracking the hobgoblins progress for some time and were somewhat amused that the adventurers thought they'd need informing about a small army appearing in the borders of their kingdom. They were however grateful for the assistance in defeating the Hydra as they were difficult creatures to subdue. While Gur'ash and the bard rested as they were the most severely wounded, Sharn and Fauna conferred with the elven scouts and Lucius spoke to their leader.
The elves had themselves been experiencing some of the troubles encountered recently by the group and had themselves investigated the temple discovered by the heroes previously in an effort to discover some clues to the origin of this strange new source of shadowy magic. In order to facilitate communication between the elven people and themselves the elven mage taught Fauna a simple scrying ritual that would allow her to contact them should they again encounter something of interest. With little else to discuss the scouts waited while their leader removed some organs and glands from the dead creature and then they as a group prepared to depart leaving the adventurers once again alone in the forest...
Back to Reality.
Now over to our DM for an overview of how the session went.
"This session was always going to be an interesting one. I want to test how well the players could deal with an enemy above their level, it turns out pretty well.
Originally I'd intended for the hobgoblin to be the big enemy in the forest, however upon further research it seemed the force was too large for them to deal with. The hydra presented a way from me to include something draconic as a difficult enemy and therefore link back into my core storyline.
The combat test was an interesting one especially considering how well they dealt with it, it's given me a good gauge of the players power levels.
Throughout the next few missions the players will be finding a place in the wider world outside of Oakvale, after leveling up post the Hydra fight the players are now level 5 and ready to explore more of the world."
Thoughts and comments are (as usual) most welcome.