Monthly Archives: July 2010

Into the Ruins

Feldard followed the party as rearguard once more, doing his best to keep pace with the nimble-footed elf who led. As they descended into the ruins below, he exchanged his axe for his crossbow and carried it cocked and loaded. He kept watch up along the cliffsides as well as behind them – alert for movement and straining to hear sounds that were not their own.

Following Hasan who was keeping a blistering pace, Ludo kept to the shadows as much as he could. Obviously Hasan thought that the recent encounter with the apes was too close to the settlement and patrols would be sent to investigate. Keeping his sword in hand, Ludo moved as silently as he could, inwardly cringing at any sound coming from the less stealthy members of the group.

Coming up on the shoulder of Hasan as he paused at a corner, Ludo darted across the street to the opposite corner of the building, listening for any sound that might indicate alarm.

Not having the nightvision to watch for wild apes or worse, Stephan hung back with Feldard as Ludo and Hasan determined what to do now that the ape had turned a bend. The strategist in Stephan screamed for the group to take cover but he dared not utter a sound.

Instead, he kept his shield and sword ready. In slow, carefully quiet movements, he kept turning to see as much as he could, keeping an eye on Feldard’s face to note if the dwarf saw anything. His movements, he hoped, would make it more difficult for someone to get a clean shot on him.

As Hasan and Ludo crept forward, Stephan managed to move to the side, behind a fallen stone column, where he could watch but be ready to run. He noticed Maruc and Miklos doing the same — Miklos kneeling behind a crumbling statue of a jackal-headed shaman, and Maruc crouching behind an odd menhir carved with what must be shaman or animistic symbols.

Hasan moved forward with Ludo, his hunter’s instinct’s on full alert, ready to discern any clue that revealed their prey’s location.

From ahead, he heard what sounded like an armored patrol moving rapidly toward them.



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A Wild Welcome

“Aye!” Stephan shouted as he hear the dwarf sound an alarm, “we are attacked!”

He was ready, however, having not really slept a wink, resting with his sword arm free and even one arm strapped in his shield—something he learned during the Folcaan Campaign in the Soderfjord Jarlands.

Stephan was on his feet before the first peel of screeching monkey repeated itself via echo off the dense surrounding rock. The clear night and waxing moon afforded some level of sight allowing Stephan to meet a leaping simian in mid flight. His sword flashed and the possessed beast fell upon it—impaled through the chest. And yet it fought, grasping and biting Stephan’s sword arm even as it give the final twitch of death.

“By the Gates of Glastri!”, Stephan bellowed in pain while quickly extracting his blade from the ape. Greasy blood splattered about and he wheeled to avoid another flying ape. Impacting it with his shield, the creature fell to the rock smacking its head with a sickening crunch. The blow, however, did not slow it down and it leaped again with an incredible arc.

Standing near the rock edge with his back to the gully, Stephan ducked under his shield but sprang with it to propel the flying monkey over the edge. Its bestial screech echoed up the rocks as it fell some sixty feet to jagged bottom.

Feldard, mid-way into his watch, had turned at the screeching and opened his mouth to give warning but Stephan was quicker. The dwarf hefted his weapon and moved to greet the attacking apes with the bite of his axe blade.

He grunted in annoyance as all the screaming was sure to alert any patrols to their presence. So much for having the benefit of surprise. Speaking of which.. how had these apes snuck up on their position without his seeing them? His infravision had only provided him just enough time to alert the other prior to the attack.. damn boulders and cover.

Miklos rose as quickly as Stephan, having felt no weariness–only unease–after the haunting trip through the moors. He sighted the attacking primates and quickly gathered the magical energies at his power. “Shhhhazaaam,” the magician intoned as he cast the familiar sleep incantation. After the practice of recent days, his casting of the spell was fluid and swift—in ways perhaps unmatched in western Karameikos. three of the attacking apes fell incapacitated.

Hasan woke more groggy and more slowly than Miklos, but he drew his sword as the apes careened down the slight slope. “Ai!” the elf screamed, throwing an unarmored arm up to protect his even more vulnerable face. A claw raked across his arm. He swung away with the other arm and landed a slashing hook to the beasts side. The ape howled his anger and bounded away to safer distance. from there, he took up a small rock that he pegged back at the companions before bounding away.

Feldard struck down one as the mage’s magic took hold. Only one beast remained and it quickly retreated. It wasn’t worth the time and effort to load his crossbow and fire off a bolt – the beastie would be long gone before then.

Feldard turned his glance to the tower and the ruins below —had the noise of the scuffle been enough to alert any sentries?

Ludo rolled quickly to the side at the first sound of the apes, but even his normally quick reactions were not quick enough, the sleep spell did its work. He too was worried, had the apes attacked alerted anyone else?

“I think we should move and quickly he whispered, I suspect a patrol will be sent to investigate. Hasan, your vision is better than mine, can you lead us away from here”?

Hasan nodded at the thief. Pausing only to pull the heavily studded leather armlets that completed his armor and gather his bow and quiver, the elf slipped silently over the hillock, following the path of the retreating ape.

Stephan was not adept at reading dwarven faces but he could see that Feldard was concerned, as he himself was, about what the ruckus may bring. He quickly gathered his things — easy enough to roll up the bed and don his pack — and followed Hasan’s lead as quietly as possible. The bright moon was a blessing and curse. It allowed him to easily follow the elf’s lead but he couldn’t help but feel it shown on him like lanterns on a bard in a traveling show.

It was a struggle to keep up with the elf and maintain some level of stealth but Stephan and the other somehow managed it.

Hasan followed the ape as it headed toward the ruined settlement. It headed to the westernmost route leading into the floor of the gulley and the ancient ruined streets. The elf lost sight of it as it disappeared behind a bend.


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“This could be older than the Elyan nation,” whispered Hasan as the six adventurers peered over a small lip at the settlement below. “We can only hope Ludo’s friends have not awakened greater, older evils. Let us be cautious, and examine the outbuildings first.”

Stephan scanned the desolate scene. “Looks like the forgotten cousin of Highforge,” he whispered.

In response to Hasan, he whispered “Why don’t we just lay low for a bit and see what happens after nightfall? It’s getting on late in the day already. But we can scoot around that way and see more of the place without coming out of cover.” Stephan gestured to the west, along the gully. He scanned the ghost village again. In a continued whisper, “I don’t see any smoke from cooking fires or the like.” Looking up at the tower, “I’d like to see if any light shines in that tower after nightfall. It would give us a clue to where greenskins may be about. And yellow robes….,” he added nervously.

Ludo looked sideways at Hasan, he whispered, “I agree with Stephen I think we should wait and see who visits this place, its too quiet at the moment. It is time for the evening meal and yet no one is around”.

“I think we should go in just before the dawn, when we have had time to see what we could be facing, this looks a lot bigger than a Goblin stockade. One thing is for certain, I am sure Vlaak and his scheming master are there somewhere.

We have been traveling all day, lets use this time to rest up as best we can, use some healing faith, rest the spellcasters fully, monitor the situation and then move in around 4:00 am in the morning, just before dawn. This will give an element of surprise and cover”. It would be folly to just charge in, without it least seeing what we could be facing.

“Feldard, are you happy to take first watch? I will cover the 2 hours before the dawn”.

Hasan took great care in finding a safe spot from which to surveil any activity occurring in and around the ruins. As darkness was approaching, they witnessed an Iron Ring patrol return to the ruins. Minutes later, a patrol of hobgoblins departed on foot seemingly to take their place. After they left, the sun was set. Dim torchlight could be seen emanating from various windows in the tower, while the ruins below remained entirely in darkness.

At last, it was time to rest for the night and begin the first of the three scheduled watches. Those in the party not on duty found it hard to go to sleep in the vicinity of such a place.

A bestial screech from a nearby area of boulders quickly roused the group to attention. A troop of six brightly covered apes broke cover and rushed toward the party.


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…It was very dark with only a sliver of moonlight showing through the clouds, Ludo moved cautiously through the stables, something was wrong. He was not sure what. He looked in the stall where he had stabled his horse but the speckled grey gelding he had ridden yesterday was dead. With a gasp he saw a pack of grey snarling wolves, fangs dripping with saliva and blood feasting on the corpse of the horse.

He immediately whirled around reaching for his sword, but as he drew his weapon, a large hand grasped his wrist, Vlaak chuckled, “no little one, not today. Your father has sold you, you belong to me to do as I please and I think you deserve … death”. With that Ludo looked down and found Vlaak holding a dagger which he then plunged deep into Ludo’s abdomen.

With a gasp, Ludo flung himself up, sweating profusely. He sighed, just another bad dream. But it had all seemed so real! Too much ale last night he mused. He got up and gathered his equipment and moved downstairs, trying not to disturb the others. Upon meeting Maruc he smiled, “my leg is healing up nicely. A couple more days of peace and quiet and it will be as good as new. Have you seen Feldard? I was wondering if he was going to introduce us to any of his Dwarven friends. I haven’t met that many Dwarves, I would be interested to see if they are all as … serious as our companion.”

Ludo tucked into some breakfast of cheese and warm bread, trying hard to forget his bad dream.

Hasan rose refreshed. Over rashers of good Karameikan bacon and a sweet melon from the Isle of Dread, the elf raised what lay inevitably in front of the party. “I suppose it is time to find Vlaak,” the elf said, looking meaningfully at Ludo above all. The prince sensed the human’s fate was tied closely with the hobgoblin’s. “Come now, let us journey as far and as swiftly as we can up the river. We know roughly where this horror of a city rests. let us take that place and make it ours. Go now, Miklos, and arrange us our transit.”

The mage looked up, smoldering. No demihuman, prince or otherwise, would send him scurrying like a scullery maid. but he went, nonetheless, bowing to the elf’s logic.

As the group stood aboard the small craft, they looked westward, watching the sun rise on their right side above the dread Dymrak. the hills quickly tumbled down into low rises and then into a drear flat country, with nothing but boggish peats on either side. the pilot, a craggy 53-year-old human, complained, “Miklos, my boy, there’s none but trouble upriver. let me take ye back to Highforge, and from there on to Kelvin. There you will find the Baron Haldane and other good men. Seek not your fate in these accursed moors.”

Stephan was none too pleased to be on a river again. His arguments for staying on horseback could not overcome the logic and pragmatism of taking the boat. He buried his frustration in the hard labor of assisting the boat’s progress with a long pole. He pushed the pole far into the mushy bottom of the bog before finding enough purchase to help push the craft forward. Up again would come the pole, not with out considerable strength of arm, and down again it went to the murk.

“A visit to the hospitality of the Baron Haldane sounds good to me”, Stephan muttered while slapping a mosquito. “At this rate, the mossies will eat us alive before midday.”

The craggy pilot chuckled and emitted a cloud of blue smoke from his pipe. “Aye. It’s why I take up the pipe. The smoke keeps the buggers away.”

“Well, perhaps you can billow some of your weed aroma my way, good pilot. I can fight a proper foe but these tiny demons are my match.”

But soon, a breeze picked up which rendered the mosquitoes flightless and somehow afforded the boat a more swift passage. But not into any sort of situation that pleased the adventurers. A strange mist seemed to build despite the breeze and the sun was challenged to provide enough light. Soon the bands were hard to see and the feeling of being watched settled uneasily on the travelers.

Again the pilot seemed nervous. He puffed heavily on his pipe. “Not many go this far in to the moors. I think there’s a put in up ahead. I’ll be needin’ to take the boat back. You good fellows can be on about your business.”

Feldard’s attempts to seek after Hernane had confirmed that she and a small traveling group had left 2 days earlier headed for Rockhome. That was a relief. Now he could focus all his attention to dealing with these Iron Ring slavers and the Sons of Night and goblin raiders. Though he was glad to be on the move again, his wasn’t so keen on the method.

In fact, Feldard was sullen at being on the river again. His incident in the petrified forest didn’t improve his outlook on water travel at all, but the decision had been made and he could either go or be left behind in Highforge. And being left behind was not an option.

Neither mosquitoes nor strange mist intruded on the dwarfs brooding. He would only be his usual cheery self once back on solid ground.

As the boat grounded gently against the shore line, Ludo nimbly jumped ashore, sword in hand he darted into the mist, scrambled up the bank, barely making a noise. Seeing and hearing nothing untoward despite the mist, he still could not shake off the feeling of being observed.

He glanced back down towards the boat and saw the others disembarking from the boat, he smiled at Feldard’s attempts of getting off the boat whilst trying not to get wet. Sliding back down the bank Ludo approached Hasan, “there is a path leading up the bank over yonder, the way ahead looks clear but in all of this mist it’s hard to tell”.

Patting Feldard on the shoulder as he moved past to take up the scouting position, “Don’t worry Master Dwarf there are no little fishes in this water for you to worry about.”

* * * * *

Following the directions they had attained back at the Wolfskull lair, the group once again ventured into the Moors heading toward the ruins of Xitaqa. Once again, they encountered an Iron Ring patrol, but this time they were able to avoid any serious combat thanks to another one of Miklos’s sleep enchantments. They continued their approach.

Eventually, they caught sight of a broken tower rising above the escarpment. At its foot, hidden amongst tangled gullies, were the ruins of an ancient settlement.

Apart from the tower building which dominated the scene, were single-story bland windowless exteriors of dressed stone blocks cut into the bedrock of the gulley sides.


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