Codex I-Chapter 3

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By mid-afternoon they were out of the wastes, trees and shrubs appearing more and more frequently. Rynn was still able to track the goblins easily, especially once the desert sand began to give way to more moist soil. The tracks were several days old, but the goblin force had been big enough to leave a substantial amount of damage to the undergrowth as they advanced.

The sun was just beginning to dip down when Rynn spotted smoke coming from just up ahead. He signaled a stop. “That’s probably their camp,” the ranger said.

Khaska stepped up next to him, then glanced back at Amara. “Could Kirza check it out?” The sorceress nodded as the Maha’i realized who he was speaking to. He very quickly stepped back, looking intently at the ground. Amara smiled as she spoke quietly to the raven, which flapped his wings and flew off.

It was only a few minutes before the familiar returned. It landed on its master’s shoulder and spoke quietly. “Rynn is correct. Goblins camp ahead.”

Eryx (DM)
The goblin camp is about a mile away. You still have a few hours of daylight left. What do you want to do?

Blackwolf
Rynn would like to try to scout out the goblin camp while there is still some light. He'll try to be extra careful since they don't know the strength of these goblins, but he wants to get close enough to see what's going on. If the terrain permits, he might even try to sneak close enough to hear what they're talking about.

Rynn will especially keep an eye out for any signs of humans among the goblins. He expects that eventually the person manipulating the tribes will show up.

Stealth isn't Rynn's strongest suit. He would ask Orensland if he'd sneak up instead, except the elf doesn't speak goblin. Rynn will suggest everyone else should hang back, but won't try to stop others from following him should they want to. Rynn will also ask Amara if she could prepare a magical distraction, just in case things go badly.

Move Silently: 6 (crap, rolled a 2!)
Listen: 26 (rolled 19 — why couldn't these have come in reverse order?)
Hide: 19 (rolled 15)
Spot: 20 (rolled 13)

So the one check I really needed most was the worst… oh well. Dem's the breaks I guess. Hopefully the goblins are so busy that they don't notice me stumbling around and cracking every stick I come across.

Actually, another thought: Eryx, you've never specified if you want to roll some skill checks for us. I know as DM sometimes I prefer to make my own rolls for certain skills because the players shouldn't know how well they did (e.g. are they not hearing anything because it's quiet or because they rolled a low Listen check.) Therefore, feel free to make your own rolls to replace these as needed — and not just because there's only a 1/20 chance of rolling worse on Move Silently. :)

DeltaWolf

Note: Jenika would pick up a ration, if available (just in case).
Jenika at this point would hang back and wait to see what Rynn discovers.

Crosis

That's a good point with the skill checks… I won't roll anything for that purpose.

Orensland would gladly sneak up on the camp. The idea of a distraction would be welcome as well- chaos makes sneaking so much easier. If the sacred stick thing is in a convenient location, stealing is an option as well. But sneaking into the heart of the camp would not be incentive to grab it… unless they're all running in the opposite direction…

And quick question. Does having the toolkit strengthen my ability to pick locks?

Thevarou
Quick question: what is the terrain like? Is it forested? Plains? Hills? Flat? That would probably influence what Khaska would do, because if there's some sort of significant cover, he would volunteer to sneak up and give it a listen as well. However, since hiding and creeping are not his strengths, he'll probably hang back. This could lead to an somewhat awkward situation if he's left with only Jenika and Amara. Khaska is beginning to understand the different gender treatments of the other races now and is realizing that he'll probably have to adapt, but he will still feel out of place and nervous if they try to start up a conversation. Khaska won't discourage it - he'll answer questions - but it will be uncomfortable. He might mention that this is the first time he has crossed the northern borders of the Wastes in his life.

However, if the group decides upon the "chaos" route, Khaska will help in whatever capacity he can. Perhaps he could approach the camp, cast "Detect Magic" to try to find the sacred stick (or perhaps Amara could do that, if we decide upon chaos), and then cast "Summon Monster I" to call up a Celestial Dog who could go fetch it (I'm really not sure what I would roll for these/if I should bother, because I don't know if the group will decide to do this). As soon as Khaska has done what he can, he'll depart as quickly as possible. Two run-ins with near-death experiences in about as many days is quite enough for him.

Eryx (DM)
Sparse forest is the kind of environment. Think of Utah, the foothills of the mountains, if you've ever visited. Enough brush to provide decent cover, but not a lot of trees. Not difficult to move through. Slightly hilly.

Sayyadina
Diversion-wise, Amara really doesn't have much to offer; she might be able to do something tricky with Prestidigitation, but given the extremely limited range it's not terribly helpful. She's much better at taking care of trouble after things hit the fan, really. XD

Amara would prefer to stay back with those who aren't sneaking, since that's really not her thing. Kirza would happily investigate more closely with Rynn; since he's small, and Rynn speaks Elvish, Kirza can probably handle most of the information gathering if Rynn doesn't want to risk getting within weapons range of the goblins.

Rolls for Kirza (not including size modifiers on hide/move silently, since I don't know what they are :D ):
Listen: 25 (20 + 5)
Spot: 21 (14 + 7)
Hide: 15 (13 + 2)
Move Silently: 19 (17 + 2)

Rynn looked around, then quickly walked into a small grove of trees. The others followed him as he glanced around, then dropped his back to the ground. “I’m going to sneak up and take a look.”

Orensland also dropped his pack. “I’ll come with you.” He looked around, and nobody else made a move to follow. The rogue shrugged. “Looks like it’s just us, Rynn!” He clapped the ranger on the back, and then motioned for him to go first. Then Kirza flapped and flew out of the grove as well. Apparently the raven was coming along as well.

Rynn stepped out of the trees, looking back. “We’ll just go scout it out, be back in a little while.”

The last thing Orensland saw before he turned to follow the ranger was the growing panic in Khaska’s eyes. He smiled as he moved into position behind Rynn.

Rynn slunk back to where Orensland was hidden behind some bushes. About thirty yards away the beginnings of the goblin camp stood out among several large trees. A small brook ran in between the two of them and the camp. “I think I can get pretty close, and not be seen, but it doesn’t look like anything is going on. I can see the worgs these goblins used to get to the wastes and back, but no sign of this stick or anything else. It just looks like business as usual for them.”

“So, should I stay, or should I go back and report?” asked Orensland.

“I don’t see much reason to stay,” said Rynn. “I can stick around for a few hours and watch them. Go tell the others, I’ll come back a few hours after dark. No fires! Just eat your rations.” The rogue nodded and left, sneaking back the way they came. Rynn was impressed at how silent the elf was able to move, watching him for a moment. Then the ranger got up and moved closer himself, positioning himself away from where it appeared the goblins got their water, but close enough that he was able to see most of their camp.

A large rock pile dominated the middle, and Rynn could see into a cave on one of its sides, but couldn’t see inside, it was too dark. Still, based on the size of the hill, it probably wasn’t too deep, unless it went underground. But based on the number of goblins he saw entering and leaving it, that seemed unlikely. Probably just a shallow cave. He hunkered down as the sun began to dip towards the horizon, casting long shadows.

He was considering leaving a few hours later. The sun had gone down and one of the Pressian moons hung in the sky, shining a bit of light, making it just that much easier to see. As expected, most of the goblins had gone to sleep. He hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary, and now wanted to sneak back to the others.

But he decided not to when he heard the beating of hooves. Within moments, the goblin village was alive. And lining up. That was a bit odd. He shifted his weight, getting on the balls of his feet, ready for action. A horseman pulled into the camp, dismounting to stand before the assembled goblins. He was human, and was wearing what appeared to be full plate. There was a longsword belted at his waist, and a silver shield attached to the saddlebags.

One of the bigger goblins came forward, pushing through the crowd, which was getting more antsy by the minute. The human pulled a red bag from his saddlebags and held it out to the big goblin. The way the other goblins moved aside for him, Rynn guessed it was the chief. He had emerged from the cave, but Rynn hadn’t seen him before now.

Kirza landed on Rynn’s shoulder. “That’s the goblin that took the stick,” the raven said, quietly. Rynn smiled. He knew that following the worg tracks was the right decision, once the goblin tracks from the bandit camp had joined up with others.

Back in the camp, more drama was unfolding. The big goblin reached for the red sack, but the human jerked it back.

“Did you get it?” he asked, in goblin. The goblin nodded, holding up a short rod, maybe a foot to a foot and a half long. Small runes glowed on its polished black surface. The human reached out a hand, and the chieftain huffed and pulled closer, finally putting the rod in the man’s hand. The man handed over the red bag, and the big goblin quickly reached in, pulled something out and put it in a pipe he had carried. The big goblin lit it with a brand from one of the campfires that was going out, inhaling deeply. He then sat on the ground and handed the pipe to another goblin. One by one, the entire camp smoked the pipe, occasionally refilling it. When they were done, they all were much more lethargic, some sitting, some simply lying down, and others crawling to where they had been sleeping in makeshift lean-tos, or just moping about, walking drunkedly around.

The human hadn’t really even bothered to examine the rod once he had been given it. Instead he had just watched the goblins all get high. Rynn was particularly interested in how docile it made the goblins. There wasn’t fighting among them, as one might expect. It almost seemed … orderly. This had obviously happened before. As the goblins milled around in their high state, the human sat back, supporting himself on his horse, watching it all happen. After a few minutes, he stepped forward to the chieftain.

“You’ve done well. And you have been rewarded, you and your tribe. Now, we have one more thing for you to do. Do it, and we’ll bring more of the red leaf, as promised.”

“What you want me do?”

“There’s a village a few miles from here, farmers and the like. You know the one I’m talking about?” The goblin nodded. “We don’t want them poking around near our camp too much, as the hunting season starts up. Go attack them. Burn a farm or two down. Make them afraid of you. Afraid of this area. Get them to band together to defend themselves. Can you do that?”

The big goblin nodded, then stood up. He roared a battle cry and several of the goblins around him stood up. “We attack humans!” he said. Immediately they began grabbing weapons and getting ready. They were riling themselves up, screaming and shouting. The human simply smiled, slipped the rod back into this saddlebags, and then mounted and rode off into the night. The goblins were leaving the camp, in the opposite direction, and there was still plenty of screaming and shouting. Rynn bolted, running as fast as he dared in the dark back to the group. Kirza took off ahead of him, and by the time he arrived the others were aware that something was going on, and were ready for action.

With a quick glance behind to see if he was followed, and it didn’t appear that he had, he breathlessly told them what had transpired.

Eryx (DM)
It appears you have a bit of a choice. The goblins are moving to attack the village right now, and the man has ridden off in the other direction. It is a few hours past nightfall now, so there isn’t a lot of light. Rynn and Kirza estimate that at least 10 goblins, probably even a few more, are moving to attack tonight.

Also, I did update the campaign rules as far as dice rolling for specific kinds of checks, namely Appraise, Hide, Move Silently, and Sense Motive. So I rolled them for you in this case. You’re pretty darn sure you were never seen nor followed, just FYI.

And one other thing, I realize that there are 5 players, and so it’s a bit complicated in figuring things out what to do next, but if you could give me more specific actions that your characters will take, that will be helpful. Like this time the idea of a distraction was brought up, but nobody really said how or what they would do with one, so I had Rynn scout it out with Orensland, because they both specifically said they would, and now these events have unfolded. Does that all make sense?

BlackWolf
"We've got to stop these goblins before any innocent people get hurt," Rynn will say. He is interested in the human man, but stopping the goblins takes priority for the half-elf. Hopefully we'll be able to track the man down later — he did say that his group didn't want the local farmers getting to nosy, so their camp must not be far. Also, we don't know much about the human or how big/powerful their group is.

Rynn will suggest the following plan of attack: try to pick off stragglers and those furthest behind with ranged attacks while remaining as quiet as possible. With a little luck, we may be able to thin them out without alerting the whole group all at once. We'll just keep attacking from behind until we've killed them all (one way or another).

Alternatively, we could try to outrun them to the farmers, warn the farmers and set up an ambush. But if they've got any worg riders then they'll easily beat us there.

Rynn is open to other ideas, maybe even trying to negotiate with the goblins. So far we've been fighting everything we see, and I certainly don't think that's the only way to handle things. He doesn't mind killing them though, because despite being manipulated, they are obviously a menace to peaceful folk. And it seems unlikely to me that in their high state (possibly even addicted?) that they'd be likely to see reason.

Regardless of the plan, Rynn will ask Amara if she would please send Kirza to fly ahead and warn the farmers. (Hopefully someone there will speak Elvish; or maybe the raven could carry a quick note written in common?)

Here are Rynn's longbow attack rolls, should we attack:

  • To hit: 16 (rolled 14 + 2 DEX). Damage: 9 (rolled 7 + 2 favored enemy).
  • To hit: 21 (rolled 19 + 2 DEX). Damage: 10 (rolled 8 + 2 favored enemy).
  • To hit: 11 (rolled 9 + 2 DEX). Damage: 6 (rolled 4 + 2 favored enemy).

(Yay! Finally he's shooting more accurately!)

Crosis

Orensland would be for warning the people ahead. He likes the idea of sending Kirza ahead with a note attached to the leg, encouraging the villagers to prepare for a goblin attack. Unless Amara is concerned for Kirza's safety, of course. The number of goblins would be important to include. Someone should run ahead to confirm anything and help prepare for the attack. Even with worg riders, the worg riders would remain with the group rather than alerting the villagers before the main force arrives, so I'm sure we would get to the village with time to spare. As for shooting retreating goblins, He's concerned with those in the back shooting at us. Maybe spreading out so they don't know where the shots are coming from? I mean, it's easy to shoot at a massive group of goblins and hit, but a few spread-out figures in the dark would be difficult targets for drugged goblins.

Crossbow shots:

  • To hit: 12 (rolled 7 + 5 DEX). Damage: 1
  • To hit: 25 (rolled 20 + 5 DEX). Damage: 15 (rolled 7 + 8 crit).
  • To hit: 19 (rolled 14 + 5 DEX). Damage: 4

Should the plan fail or begin to fail, Orensland would run back to the camp before the goblins return. In fact, if enough people are attacking the goblins from behind and people agree with the plan, he might stay to "clean up" the camp. As a scavenger, he would loot what little he can, and maybe get a sample of the red leaf. It could tell us about who is giving it to the goblins. But no worries, looting is just a quickie- what he would really want to do is put the goblins in a very bad position by destroying their camp and supplies. I'm thinking fire again.

Hopefully in the daytime Rynn can track the human. Or we could split up and somebody tries now. Whatever is preferred, although I'm sure he's long gone and tracking is easier in the day. Or, if the goblins come back to a ruined camp, they might show us the way to the human campout if they go looking themselves. Or they kill each other again, especially if we take all remaining red leaf and hide/burn it. That should make them cranky.

DeltaWolf

Jenika would prefer a peaceful solution to a violent one. Either warning the farmers or negotiating.

The problem with trying to warn the farmers is only the bird is fast enough to get there with enough time to make any difference, and Jenika is not sure the farmers will take the word of a bird, even one speaking Elvish.

And the problem with negotiation is that, while more pacified, they still seem intend on mayhem. And what’s more we would have to promise them something they would want more then the “red leaf”.

As much as it would pain Jenika to suggested it, she would propose we try to get ahead of them, then catch them in arrow cross fire. If nothing else we might slow them down. Jenika (unless we agree for some strange reason to engage them head on) wouldn’t attack unless they engage us in mid to close combat.

Sayyadina
In terms of information, Amara thinks that it would be much more valuable to send Kirza to follow the man on horseback and reporting back the location of his camp once he's settled in for the night. There are no worg riders, so we shouldn't have much trouble at all catching up to/outpacing the goblins to the human village. She would prefer to reach the human village and set up some form of ambush; failing that, harrying them from a distance as they run is preferable to attacking them head-on. She isn't terribly concerned about the number of goblins, trusting in her magic to disable enough of them to even the fight with or without help from the villagers. If Rynn wants to try talking to them, she wouldn't argue but would be rather bemused, and somewhat unhappy about losing the advantage of surprise.

In any case, once combat is joined Amara would use her crossbow until either enough goblins are in melee range of people to be causing a significant threat or until a group of goblins are clumped up enough to hit at least 3 with one Color Spray burst. Assuming Kirza does go after the fleeing human, Amara will give him very specific instructions to avoid detection, flying comparatively high and as far back as possible without losing sight of the target, hiding behind whatever cover is available should the man turn around to see if he is being followed. Once the man settles down at a camp or the like for the evening, Kirza should scout the camp (again without being seen, and behaving as much like an ordinary bird as possible in case he is spotted) and then report back on both its location and its layout.

Crossbow attacks (only one or two might be needed, depending on how combat works out):

  • To hit: 11 (9 + 2). Damage: 6
  • To hit: 6 (4 + 2). Damage: 8
  • To hit: 3 (1 + 2). Damage: 10

Color Spray (save DC 14): those hit by it will be unconscious, blinded, and stunned for 3 (2d4, 2 + 1) rounds, blinded and stunned for 3 (1d4, 3) rounds, and blinded for an additional round. Amara will cast this again later if necessary.

BlackWolf
It sounds like we should try to outrun them then. Hopefully we can find the farmers in time for them to prepare themselves. Once the goblins arrive and see that they are in trouble, Rynn would call out to them and offer them a chance to lay down arms and surrender.

Thevarou

Khaska’s first priorities are the safety of the human village the goblins are intending to attack and the safety of his comrades. At the same time, he wants to take advantage of the opportunity to learn what they can of the conspiring human and the goblins he is manipulating. He will speak in favor of Kirza going to watch the man in his flight, of heading off the goblins as they wend their way to the village, and Rynn’s attempts to use diplomacy or, if needed, violence to protect the inhabitants of the town and their possessions. As there are apparently still goblins in the goblin camp, he wouldn’t think it prudent for anyone to assault it unless absolutely necessary. However, he feels that scouting out the camp could be of benefit, and as long as the other four feel that they would be able to hold their own in a fight with the goblins, Khaska will volunteer to approach and observe the goblin camp himself. A longer period of surveillance could render useful information Rynn may have missed as well as provide him the chance to identify the red leaf and perhaps its provenance and make – something that could aid in the identification of the human. (Eryx will have to roll for Hide and Move Silently, but I don’t suppose there will be much of a problem due to the goblins’ drugged state.)

  • Spot Check: 20 = 15 + 5
  • Listen Check: 21 = 16 + 5
  • Knowledge Nature Check (red leaf and anything else pertinent): 24 = 18 + 6

He’ll set up a rendezvous point and time with the others, probably just proceeding to the human village after he feels he has gleaned all possible information from watching the goblins. If the goblins notice him, he’ll only engage them as a last resort, preferring again to run immediately to help his companions in whatever they need. If needed, he will fight (whether alone or to help his companions), first with his shortbow and then with his scimitar.

  • To hit: 7 = 7 + 0 Damage: 6 = 6 + 0
  • To hit: 16 = 14 + 2 Damage: 8 = 6 + 2
  • To hit: 17 = 15 + 2 Damage: 6 = 4 + 2

“We’ve got to stop these goblins before innocent people get hurt,” he finished. He looked at the others as he grabbed his backpack, clearly ready to leave right now and not really waiting for an answer.

Jenika already had her pack on. “We should try to get ahead of them. Warn the farmers and the village before the goblins get there.”

“Then we should leave now,” said Orensland.

Amara said something quickly to her raven, and Kirza flew off back towards the goblin camp. “Kirza will try to follow the man,” she said. “Kill two birds with one stone.”

“As long as the rider doesn’t kill Kirza with a stone,” Khaska said. He smiled.

Amara smiled back. “A joke! From you!” she kidded him.

“We should leave. Now.” Rynn was slightly impatient. “I wish to stay and watch the goblin camp some more,” Khaska said. “Go, though. Quickly. I will catch up with you.” Rynn nodded. They bid farewell to the cleric and bolted off into the trees.

The ranger set a decent pace, but even with a second moon rising in the night, there was not a lot of light, and it was difficult to move. The ranger was able to easily follow the very fresh goblin tracks, however, and within a mile they were able to break off to follow a parallel route.

Amara and Orensland were a bit winded a few minutes later as Rynn called a halt. Just ahead was a bit of a clearing—a farmer’s field. It was clear they hadn’t been fast enough. The house and the barn were already burning, and livestock was already scattered or slain.

Rynn cursed, looking poking his head above a bush at the edge of the field. He turned to the others. “What do you think? Shall we attack?”

Just then the goblin chieftain roared at the others. “Much meat!” He held up the leg of some animal, indistinguishable from this distance. “But no fight! Old humans. Fight more humans!” He screamed and then moved off into the darkness past the burning buildings. The others followed.

Jenika looked at Rynn. “We should get ahead of them now. We can’t help those people. They’ve already moved on and …”

“And now they won’t be moving fast or be as excited. Their lust for violence is slaked, at least a little.” The ranger moved off at a quick jog. The others followed.

Rynn picked up the pace a little, getting more and more worried. But he was right. The goblins, after attacking one farm, were slower. He also suspected that the drug, whatever this redleaf, was wearing off just a little. It had been probably two hours since they had ingested the substance. Longer, for those who had smoked it first. He wasn’t sure whether that was a good thing or not.

They were running parallel to a dirt road now, a dirt road the goblins were also following. They weren’t ahead by much, but by the time the ranger’s sharp eyes saw the outline of another farmhouse, he was confident they had a few minutes before the goblins would arrive. Rynn ran straight at the house, his hardened legs carrying him faster than the others could keep up.

Just as he approached the house, however, a large dog came out and began barking furiously. The ranger slowed down, not approaching the dog, and finally stopping a good ways from the house. He quickly tried to get the dog to appreciate and be friendly, using all the skills he had learned as a ranger and his innate sense of connection with animals, but the dog was having none of it. It stood between him and the house, barking, teeth bared, clearly on edge.

“Leave us alone!” a voice cried from a window. A light came on behind the figure, silhouetting him. It was a man, and a woman’s face peered out from the side. She had a candle in her hand, and a frightened look on her face. “Take what you want and go, but leave us alone!”

“Sir,” Rynn said. “We’ve come to help. A goblin raiding party is on its way. They just destroyed the farm to the east and they’ll be here soon. We came to warn you!” The rest of the party was arriving behind him, slowing down, catching their breath. “Please, sir. They are coming!”

“I’d really,” Orensland was sucking in air, “rather not,” more sucking, “have to fight,” he gasped, “them here.”

“We don’t have time for this!” Amara yelled at the man. “What? You think if we were bandits we’d just walk up and talk to you like this?”

“Mommy!” came a faint voice. The woman froze with fear, then disappeared.

“Look,” the sorceress continued, “if you don’t …”

Orensland stepped in front of her, standing straight, drawing his crossbow, and cutting her off. “Sir, I won’t let anything happen to you, or your family! You have my word! Whether you believe it or not.” With that, he moved towards the barn. The small path from the main road would come right by it. He slunk down by the edge of the barn. The dog was still barking, but when Rynn unshouldered his bow and moved to follow Orensland, it just dropped to a growl. Amara gave one last withering look at the farmer, but then also followed.

Jenika looked up at the farmer. “We will fight, then, to defend you and yours.” She also followed. The dog came a few steps closer, but stayed by the house.

The goblin party was just coming into sight on the road. Rynn nocked an arrow. “So, get them to go away first, or fight a bit to soften them up.”

“Soften them up,” Orensland. “Make it seem like there are more of us than there are.”

Jenika nodded. “If they think we’re fortified and well-armed, we might have a chance.” The torches of the goblin party were clearly visible now, and very faintly their gruff voices could be heard.

“All together now?” Rynn said. The three of them nodded and readied their weapons.

The dog whimpered, and Jenika turned to see the farmer, boots hurriedly put on, shirt half tucked into breeches that were half-falling down with no belt, but he had a bow and an quiver. She quickly motioned for him to come, and he did, sneaking quietly.

“Decided we were telling the truth,” Amara whispered.

“The elf was quite convincing. And, well, then I saw the goblins coming.”

“And I was serious,” Orensland said to him. His face had grown very stern, a frown replacing his normal jovial smile, a hint of tightness around his eyes. “Your children will not be harmed.”

“They should be in range,” Rynn said. He stepped out into the open, giving the others a bit of room, nocked his arrow, and said “now!”

Four projectiles sped into the dark. The targets were easy to see, approaching with torches, easily illuminated. The goblins hadn’t even tried to hide their approach.

Two of the goblins dropped immediately, one with a shriek, but it appeared that only two of the shots had connected. The others were unharmed.

“Halt!” Rynn yelled in goblin. He nocked another arrow. “Go back, or we will fire again.” He slightly drew his arm back, but not fully pointing it at them. “You will not get another chance. This place is protected. Leave!”

The goblins hesitated. One reached for its bow, but Rynn pointed his arrow right at him. “Hey!” The goblin dropped its arm.

The ranger pulled his arm up slightly, slowly aiming it across the entire group. “This is your last warning! Leave!”

Another arrow flew out from behind Rynn. It sailed into the darkness. A young man had appeared at the doorway of the house, a boy, really. Couldn’t be much more than twelve or thirteen.

“John! Get back!” the farmer yelled. Orensland took a deep breath, then poked his head out, a crossbow in his hand, clearly trying to lend credence to Rynn, trying to show that there were a number of people here, all firing from cover.

The goblins began to advance. But Rynn drew his arm back and fired again. Another goblin dropped with a cry, and this time the ranger stepped forward in an attempt to intimidate them. “I said leave. Now!” He pulled another arrow from his quiver, and stepped forward yet again.

That was all it took. The goblins turned and fled.

Eryx (DM)
I took the liberty of rolling some intimidate and diplomacy checks there at the end. Rynn rolled quite well, and the goblins rolled quite poorly. The intimidate check totally worked.

The farmer believed Orensland and his passionate oath (also a good roll), and came to help. You successfully convinced the goblins not to mess with you, making it seem like there were quite a few of you. Really, it was dark, and they couldn’t see all that well past their torchlight, so they had little way of knowing how many of you there were.

Amara, Jenika, Orensland, and Rynn all get 200 XP (150 for 3 dead goblins, and 50 for successfully heading off the attack). Level 2, congratulations! Khaska, we’ll pick you up in the next bit of narration, but you’re fine, and have been undetected. You’re just watching the camp right now, and haven’t seen anything unusual. Just a note, I’m not sure I’ll always allow the group to split up. In this situation, it seems easy enough to get you back together, but I might not let you in future situations.

It's probably a bit after 2 in the morning. What do the four of you want to do now?

BlackWolf
First Rynn will want to explain the situation to the farmer. "These goblins are being drugged and manipulated by some men hiding out in the wilderness. These men are hiding something and don't want to be discovered during the hunting season.

"So be careful. I don't think the goblins will return tonight. In the morning, warn your neighbors. These men have used several goblin tribes to do their dirty work, so they may try again. My friends and I are going to investigate what these men are up to and stop them if we can."

Once Rynn is convinced that the farmer and family are safe, he'll next want to visit the farm they weren't able to save. See if there is anything they can do there.

Since it's late, we should probably sleep near the farms. In the morning Rynn will want to follow the goblins' path of retreat. Hopefully they are just returning to their camp and we can meet back up with Kashka.

Crosis
So, I've been thinking strategy. Rynn has suggested we tell the villagers about the goblins and the men. That could work out, but I'm nervous that they'll suddenly lope off into the darkness to hunt down a human encampment who's location is hidden, even from us. Orensland wouldn't want innocent people hurt, as I'm sure neither do the others. I know I keep trying to use this strategy, but I still like the idea of pitting our enemies against each other. If we find out where the human encampment is, we can… suggest a direction for the goblins to lope off to. Maybe we can pick off a few stragglers ourselves from the sidelines. But the travelers can't take on two camps of warriors alone, stupid as one of them may be, and Orensland would think in the interest of the farmers by not getting them involved.

Another possibility to add to the mix. The travelers have yet to discover the location of the humans. We may know from Kirza, or Rynn could track the man. If they were to discover the location of the red leaf, a few options are open to us. Assuming the humans will be unhappy with the goblins for failing mostly with their village attack, there is a possibility that they will not give away any red leaf that night. With or without that incentive, If we swipe a bag of red leaf and bring it to the goblins as an act of good faith "because the humans don't want to give it to you anymore," riling them up should be fairly easy. Or we burn the stock of red leaf. This would largely depend on supplies and the location- if the red leaf is in a tent, great. Not only will the humans have some very angry goblins on their hide because they have no more red leaf to give, we could get some humor from watching the little firefighters get high. Orensland would have a cackle over that one. If it's in a cave, which would probably be unguarded, only stealing would probably be the best option. Unless the travelers have lantern oil handy.

As a final note, if we do get the two camps to go at each other, we would need to stop the possibility of diplomacy between the two. Orensland would volunteer hiding in the shadow of a tent and shooting at the approaching goblins, just to make them angry and beyond any attempts of diplomacy from the human side.

Oh, and stealing the sacred stick in the confusion would be nice.

If the villagers need any money to help with possible damages from the goblin attack, I think we're pretty stocked and could help out.

BlackWolf
I'm really not seeing how we'd convince the goblins and their drug lords (for lack of a better term) to fight. At least not now; we don't know enough about the drug lords. Even if the goblins are stupid, we'd be hard pressed to convince them that they should believe us instead of their known allies.

Once we know more about the drug lords and their red leaves, then we can think about this kind of strategy. But as of now it seems a bit premature — but that might just be my own take on it. Anyone else want to chime in? I think it would be funny to turn them against each other; it just doesn't seem plausible at the moment.

As for the farmers, I think we need to tell them about what's going on. I sincerely doubt that they'll take up arms to hunt down the drug lords. But even if they do, it will be them making a conscious choice. If we don't tell them anything then they won't be prepared to defend themselves if more goblins or the drug lords themselves roll into town to kill them.

I do like the idea of helping the farmers with money to cover damages, but I'm afraid that the people who lost their farm also lost their lives… :(

Eryx (DM)
I don't want to metagame too much, and BlackWolf is right that much more information should be gathered, but I'll just say up front that Crosis' idea is not necessarily impossible, either. It might not be what you end up deciding on, but at this stage you shouldn't torpedo it either.

DeltaWolf

Jenika, despite herself, would start seeing a “good side” to Orensland, but still wouldn’t like him.

But more to the point, she would agree that the “drug lord” needs to be dealt with. And getting rid to his “supply” would be beneficial.
She would say something on the lines of, “We could kill all the goblins and still have a problem with the “drug lord”, but if we could stop the “drug lord” then the problem with the goblins may very well go away. Or at least they will go back to how they were.”

Sayyadina
Amara's torn between sleeping now, waiting to hear back from Kirza, and starting to head after the man. On the other hand, given the adverse effects of familiar death on casters, presumably she'd know if Kirza had been killed, and she trusts Kirza to keep out of sight. On the off chance he sees the man and whomever he's with settle down for the night and then comes immediately back to Amara to report, she'd lean towards settling here for the night and getting as much sleep as possible before setting off in pursuit.

As far as the farmers go, Amara doesn't really see any reason to come back. One way or another, they've been warned; either the goblins are too scared to come back, or they'll return later. If the latter, she's more or less of the opinion that the farmers have been warned, and if they don't do anything to defend themselves in the future it's entirely their own fault. She thinks it's much more important to go after whoever is behind the goblin attacks, unless they seem particularly powerful. If so, she'd prefer to head straight to Hammerdine, get on with her business there, and report the situation to the Knights. In any case, these are decisions to be made once we have more information.

Rynn relaxed, his hand moving reflexively to return the arrow to his quiver. The others came out from their hiding place behind the barn. The man was shaking.

Orensland put his arm around the farmer’s shoulders. “It’s okay. You’re safe.” The young boy ran over to his father and the two embraced, and the wife’s head poked out of the house door. “You can come out. The goblins have left.” The woman came out slowly, an infant in her arms, a young girl at her side.

“Well, more excitement than you’re probably used to,” said Rynn. “But you’re safe now.”

“Why did they attack?” the man asked. He still had his arm around the boy, hugging him close, over and over. The boy momentarily looked annoyed, but then the moment passed and he held onto his father.

“These goblins are being drugged and manipulated by some men hiding in the wilderness,” Rynn said. “These men are hiding something and don’t want to be discovered during the hunting season.

So be careful. I don’t think the goblins will return tonight. In the morning, warn your neighbors. These men have used several goblin tribes to do their dirty work, so they may try again. My friends and I are going to investigate what these men are up to and stop them if we can.”

“You … “ the man said. “You’re leaving tonight.”

Rynn hesitated, looking at his companions. Amara had already put her stuff together in preparation for moving off. She and the ranger locked eyes. “We should go,” she said. “The more time we waste, the less time we’ll have to track that man.”

“I agree,” said Jenika. “This ‘drug dealer’ needs to be dealt with.”

“We should at least go check out the other farm,” was Orensland’s reply. “Perhaps there are survivors.”

“And I think a good night’s rest is in order,” Rynn said. “Hard to track at night. And we’re all pretty tired.”

“Please, you could stay here,” the farmer’s wife said. “We don’t have much room, but you would be welcome to sleep in our barn. It’s at least warmer than out here.”

“I should ride into town,” the man said, “warn the council.” He looked at the party. “Please, stay, while I do so. We could feed you breakfast in the morning, at the very least. And I would feel more comfortable if you could stay while I warned the village.”

Orensland nodded. “We will sleep in your barn tonight, my friends.” He looked down at the little girl. “And we will keep the bad things away, so you can sleep.” The girl hid behind her mother’s skirt, shying away from the stranger.

Rynn actually opted to sleep outside of the barn after the man, who introduced himself as Quentin Northman, galloped away on his horse. But before Rynn dropped off to sleep he did notice Amara coming out of the barn and curling up a few feet away, muttering something about the smell to him. He smiled, and turned over and was soon fast asleep.

Orensland woke up to someone shaking him. He bolted upright, grabbing the hand and instinctively going for his dagger.

“Ow!” the boy cried.

Orensland let go, and the kid stepped back, rubbing his wrist where the rogue had grabbed him. The elf looked around. Nobody else was in the barn, and sunlight was streaming through the cracks in the wall. “Sorry,” he said. “Did I hurt you?”

“Just a little,” the boy said. For the first time, Orensland was getting a good look at him. He was young, with sandy hair and a dirty shirt and breeches. His boots were a few sizes too big, and his hands were calloused from farm work.

“What time is it?”

“Sun’s been up for about an hour. Mother wanted me to wake you for breakfast. The village elders are coming, they’ll be here soon.”

Orensland got up quickly, feeling sheepish that he had slept in so much. He ran his hand through his hair, but then walked outside with his young friend.

The young mother was eager to feed Orensland, even though he had to use a plate that had hurriedly been washed after Amara was finished with it. He wolfed down several eggs and a side of ham with cheese while they talked.

The famer had returned apparently just before dawn. The village had been warned and were sending out a small party to look into the situation. Rynn wanted to at least go investigate the other farm before leaving, but the farmer insisted they stay and finish eating. The food was quite good, and Orensland didn’t mind. He surreptitiously slipped a gold coin under his plate as he heard horses out front and people’s attention was elsewhere.

The village elders had sent three men, one a wizened old man with a long beard, age stooping his back just a bit, but still able to ride a horse, one wearing some armor, though it looked pieced together, and one slightly more well-dressed man. They introduced themselves as Hubert, representing the elders, Richard, a kind of local sheriff, and Lazlo, who happened to be in town collecting taxes for the local lord. They wanted immediately to see the other farm. Rynn led the way after bidding goodbye to the wife and children. Quentin came with them. The little girl shyly gave Amara a flower as they left, and the sorceress graciously took it and put it in her hair.

The other farm had been completely burned down. Hubert climbed down from his horse first, shambling over to the husk of a cabin. Rynn followed as the others investigated the barn and holding pens. A few animals had not been killed, probably more out of luck than anything else. Rynn and Richard picked their way through the burned out cabin, and it was Rynn who discovered the bodies of the two who had lived here.

Hubert was particularly distraught at this. Apparently the people who had lived here had been good friends, an elderly couple, Nathan and Sandra Reynolds. They had been a couple who were well past their prime yet still lived on the farm they had started together many years ago as newlyweds. Rynn and Richard brought the two bodies out and lay them down in front of the burned out cabin.

“These goblins will pay!” Richard said. “I’ll organize the militia, and we’ll attack them!”

“Lord Yellman will be displeased. You will have his full support, I’m sure,” the tax collector replied.

“Good.” Quentin said. “Taxes better go for something around here!”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Amara said. “The men who are controlling the goblins may very well be your biggest threat. And they sent them here specifically to keep you away from them.”

“And that’s what we were going to do next,” Jenika said.

The pounding of hooves caught all their attention. Two more horses rode up, another finely dressed man and another man in armor. The four local men dropped to their knees.

The finely dressed man got off his horse and strode right up to the group. “Oh, do get up! I came as fast as I could. Thanks for sending the messenger, Lazlo. And you must be the fine wanderers who aided my subjects last night!” He bowed deeply. “You have my thanks. I’m Lord Hayward Yellman, the Lord of these areas.” He stuck his hand out and vigorously shook the hands of each of the party. He listened attentively as they described what was going on. “And you’ll now be going on to track these men? They have this ‘sacred stick,’ and now don’t want to be disturbed. Will you return and inform us of what you find? I must assess the safety of my holdings, what with so many of our men gone?”

“Gone?” asked Amara.

“Yes. The Hammerdine military have been heavily recruiting of late. The Dark Times are coming, and they are bolstering their armies. We exist under charter from Hammerdine, so enlistment is all but required.” Amara’s face darkened a bit at that. Having come from a highly militarized city, she knew very well the problems that such a requirement could bring in a society. “And I can make it worth your while.”

Jenika called out abruptly to the trees nearby. “Khaska!” The Maha’i came out, moving slowly towards the group.

“This is our Maha’i friend, Khaska,” Rynn said to the astonished locals. “He volunteered to stay and watch the goblins. Did you see anything of note?”

“I did not,” Khaska replied. “And I fear my sneaking up too close almost got me caught. I came to see you. You were unsuccessful in stopping the goblins, I see.”

“Just at this farm,” Orensland said. “We fought them off at the next farm over. Saved a young family.”

Khaska’s ears perked up at this, and he smiled. “That is good.”

The adventurers and the locals all looked at each other. Then Lord Yellman spoke up again. “I don’t suppose any of you is a cleric? Mine is away on family business and, well, these good folks need to be buried. It would be nice if a cleric was able to say some words over them before we commit them to Markus and the Good Dragons.”

“Khaska is a cleric,” said Orensland. “He could probably pray over them.”

“Oh,” the Maha’i said. “I … really, um.” He looked at the ground again, assuming the posture that Rynn was beginning to recognize as indicating discomfort. But then the cleric straightened. “I do not believe our prayers are the same. I have never seen a human pray, and know not the words. But, if you do not mind, I might pray in my own language.”

Yellman hesitated for a moment, the silence lasting for several seconds, and nobody really from the locals looking straight at Khaska, before Quentin spoke up. “The Reynolds would not mind, my lord. They were good people, friends to all.” The nobleman pondered on this statement.

“Or, if you wish,” continued Khaska, “I might try to translate one of our prayers into your tongue, though it will be halting.”

Hubert spoke up. “That would be nice.” He turned to Lord Yellman. “Do not the gods smile upon us all? Does not Markus command that we respect each other?”

Yellman hesitated yet again, then nodded. “Please, Mr. Khaska, if you would say one of your prayers over these fine people. Then we will bury them.”

Khaska felt his hair prickle as he the gaze of the group rested upon him. He was unsure of how to translate some elements of the prayer – and some, indeed, were specific to Maha'i, and he only supposed that it was permissible to adapt them to other races. Taking stock of prayers for the dead that he had committed to memory, he settled upon the simplest, the most generic, the safest of the prayers, muttering an apology under his breath for not knowing precisely the correct prayer for the occasion. He knelt between the bodies of the deceased husband and wife, his knees level with their own. Placing his hands on their feet, and moving them up the corpses with each line of the prayer, he began:

“May your feet never know” (splitting was the Maha'i word, inappropriate for them) “injury from the road,

May your knees never know the strain of steps,

May your legs never tire from the journey,

May your stomach never know the pains of hunger,

May your chest never know breathlessness or cramp,

May your shoulders never droop under the yoke,

May your arms never know the limpness of decay,

May your neck never fail to stand tall,"

At this point in the prayer, Kirza returned, alighting on Amara's shoulder. The bird tried to speak, but the sorceress hushed the raven.

"May your mouth never thirst for water or kind word,

May your nose never sense stench,

May your ears never hear crying or lamentation,

May your eyes never know darkness,

And may …” Khaska swallowed and omitted the line about horns, which had almost come automatically,

“And may Markus conduct you into the everlasting hills,

And may you there never know aught but happiness.”

By the end of the prayer, the Maha'i had leaned far forward; he completed the motion by prostrating himself, touching nose to the ground, between the two bodies while whispering words to himself, the words of invocation and benediction that were not meant to be heard by others. After a moment prone, hooves and knees, elbows and hands and nose against the dust, he sat up and then stood. He turned to the group, inclined his head, and turned away outstretched hands, saying, “If you would excuse me, I must go perform my ablutions, for despite the blessing of the gods the bodies of the dead remain unclean.” Lord Yellman, who had extended his hand in gratitude, nodded after a moment of confusion and let the Maha'i pass to the well, where he washed his feet, hands, and head in the water, then pouring the water over the well itself to cleanse it. As he performed his washings, the others resumed their conversation.

Amara and Kirza were whispering, and after a moment the sorceress turned to the others. “We know where the men are. It looks like there’s a few of them, and they have a sky ship. A small one, though, not a huge one. They’re at some ruins some miles north of the goblin camp.”

“I know the ruins,” Quentin said. “And they were right. It’s a favorite camping spot during the hunting season. Provides good cover, decent place to sleep, atop a hill, lots of visibility.”

“You were already heading there,” said Lord Yellman, “but if you are able to chase them off or find out more about what they intend, I would be most grateful. There would be a reward for any information or action you could take on my behalf and on behalf of the people of these lands. I have substantial wealth at my manor, and you would be most welcome there upon your return.”
[[/div]]

Eryx (DM)
So there you have it. Kirza was able to follow the human back to his camp, though he did make a stop at another goblin tribe late last night too. Those goblins did not appear to be sent off after local farmers, but there was some discussion between the man and the goblins. Khaska did not see anything of note, and was not able to sneak up and investigate the camp any further, as he was pretty clumsy and began rousing goblins as he got closer. He thought it best to sneak off and live to fight another day.

The ruins, you could find out from Quentin and the other locals, are at least a day’s travel north of here. Lord Yellman would be most grateful if you could do something to help out. This seems to be what you were already doing, but he’s offered a reward upon your return for any help you could offer or information you could gain.

For being a nice cleric, Khaska earns 50 XP. Welcome to level 2.

I assume you want to just head up towards the encampment of the “drug lords,” but if there’s anything else you want to do, let me know. I won’t necessarily wait for everybody to post on this one. This is just a chance for a) me to stop writing, and b) give you a bit more input. It’s now late morning, thing about 10 a.m. or so. Will you take up Yellman’s offer to return with information or something else? What else, if anything, do you want to do?

BlackWolf
I don't know why (probably just paranoia), but I would like a Sense Motive check to make sure Rynn doesn't suspect any of these men of having ties to the 'drug lords'.

Rynn would also like to make a gather information check to see if there is anything more we can learn about the ruins, specifically if there is a way to sneak up on them (e.g. maybe the North side has the least visibility).

  • Gather Info: 23 (rolled 20 + 3 bonus — nailed it; or Vescowned it, if you will).

Other than that, Rynn would like to buy a couple rations if available in this little village. He doesn't keep many on him, but he did use up one the previous day/night due to the goblin situation.

Rynn is eager to visit the ruins and find out what's up with our drug lord villains and their airship.

Eryx (DM)
Just going to post the results of your Sense Motive before I head to bed. You don't get the impression from any of these locals that they have any idea what's going on with these men hiding in the wilderness.

Crosis
Agreed- at this stage, Orensland would want to scout out the human encampment. I'll do a gather info check just in case two eyes are better than one in the game, although I think Rynn definitely will definitely have the better roll.

  • Gather Info: 19 (rolled 16 + 3 bonus)

Orensland would offer to go up to the ruins to sneak around. I'll let you do those rolls, Eryx. I still think the best incentive to have the goblins attack the human camp will involve red leaf in one way or another, so discovering the location of that will be helpful. Aside from that, hopefully they're all speaking common, so maybe Orensland can pick up on an important conversation or two. Maybe he can even steal the sacred stick. Whatever can be done.

Rynn looked at the others. Orensland’s face had lit up at the prospect of more money, but the other two seemed more noncommittal. The ranger turned back to Lord Yellman.

“At the very least, we’ll come back to report what’s going on. We should get moving soon, though. Would it be possible to buy trail rations in town?”

Quentin beamed. “Yes, yes it would. And the town is not far.”

As they walked, Rynn and the others asked more about these ruins. There wasn’t much to tell, really. They had been there well before anybody could remember. There was nothing in the histories about what it was. It was obviously set up around a hill, and there were various decaying buildings around it. At the top of a hill were the remains of a large building. The roof had fallen in centuries ago, but the pillars that served to hold it up were largely intact. Theories as to what the building were varied between the local people. Lord Yellman thought it would have been the seat of the government. Quentin and Richard were both of the opinion that it was a temple. Khaska asked them why, and they replied of a great stone altar with ancient runes and the remains of a statue. They did not know what Gods would have been worshipped there.

The town was abuzz with news of the attack, and the party was warmly received. Amara was impatient, whispering to Rynn that they should leave quickly, but it was hard to extricate themselves. The townsfolk were asking questions, worried about their defenses and their farms, and generally concerned over the situation. But Lord Yellman eventually was able to calm them down and let the party get on their way. “We’ll know better what to do when we have more information,” he kept saying. The party was able to make a few very quick purchases, and were on their way by mid-morning.

Eryx (DM)
That ends this chapter. If anybody else needed to make a purchase or two of something minor, like rations for Rynn, go ahead and mark it as purchased. You didn’t really have time to get anything else, Lord Yellman was pressuring you to get moving with promise of money upon your return. Plenty of time to come back later, and the village was definitely in the lower end of the “hamlet” category on DMG p. 137. It's clear that it's one of many villages under Lord Yellman's domain, so to be honest purchasing should probably be done more at the city by his keep than one of the small outlying hamlets.

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