Children of the Shadow.

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Tom
Session 6 - January 11, 2011
Start of Session:
20th of Doshram

End of Session:
Afternoon, 33rd of Dorsham

The Action:
The party stays 10 nights in Pardrum Holdfast, where they accomplish various things. Tolmaar and Voll set in to learning new spells, Alric participates in trading with the locals, Bollin mulls about causing trouble here and there, and Wendell shacks up with a widowed dwarven matron.

Some other things accomplished:
* The party is interviewed by the persistent clan loremaster
* Tolmaar and Alric explore the Hall of Heroes and glean some background information about the holdfast and the Cardaal Clan
* Alric distributes some of his carvings to the children of the holdfast
* Dola inspects Tolmaar's heirloom urutuks and reveals some of their powers
* The group notices a shy child who they deduce is half-dwarf, half-orc

Toward the end of their stay, they are drawn to the fighting pit, where they witness a warrior youth earn his right of passage by fighting a goblin to the death. After this spectacle, the party is offered a chance to prove their worth in the ring. Alric lowers himself into the pit without hesitation. After working up the crowd, Alric finds himself face to face with a vicious warg, which nearly gets the best of him. Fortunately, Alric is able to land a killing blow and the warg is slain. After celebratory cheering, Tolmaar decides to try his luck. He is matched with a pair of goblins, which he cleverly outmanuevers and overcomes. The crowd is impressed with his use of the ancient dwarven urutuks, which he handles with ease.

Finally, Voll enters the ring. His opponent is an orc, and the crowd is certainly on Voll's side as the goblinoid is jeered and hissed. Voll handles himself well and skillfully decapitates the orc with his elven blades. Holding the head up high, he uses magic to cause it to glow, and this causes a stir in the crowd. The horrorfied crowd treats the victor with silence, and Voll is obligated to make an inaudacious exit to return to his friends, the lesson apparently learned. With this the dorthane calls an end to the festivities and a party commences afterward.

On the day before they leave, the party is called in to speak with Dola. She is uncharacteristically silent as the heroes make their way into the room and take a seat. She offers them each a prophecy by having them break a small stone with a hammer, then reading the pieces.

To Alric she says:

Wildlander, I know what you seek. You will find it in the most unlikely of places. You must seek out the one called the Teacher and trust him with your life.

To Voll:

Erenlander, I see something within you; a seed which grows even now. Whether it will bloom with good or evil fruit I cannot say.

To Tolmaar:

You fear your hunters but would fight for freedom. Do not lose heart, but know that the magic in yours may betray your company to the darkness.

To Wendell:

Riverblooded. The fate of your family has come to pass and your beloved Eren flows with tears. Be strong and hold a true promise. The ends are indeed justification of the means.

To Bollin:

You can never replace those who sacrificed themselves for you. But do not strive to be alone. Find trust in new friends and your heart shall grow to fill your frame.

The next day they set out for the surface with the tracker Calia as their guide. She is eager to pay a visit to her boyfriend who is stationed at the West Gate, half a day's march from the exit.

For 2 and a half days they travel, and when the group approaches the fort, they notice several pikes mounted with dwarf heads, and one of them is recognized by the devastated Calia. After sneaking forward, Alric spots the gate and notices some activity from within the windows. It is quickly determined that orcs have taken the tower. Alric tries to negotiate with the orcs to "trade" Calia, but isn't able to strike a deal with the stubborn occupiers. Finally, he resorts to hurling insults, as an invisible Bollin moves forward to climb the gate. The large plainsman takes advantage of an opportunity to pull an orc out of a window and is met by an attack out of the far gate. The rest of the party assaults the gate and a bloody battle ensues, but eventually the orcs are diminished. Bollin goes down and is in dire need of medical attention, but Voll and Tolmaar are not able to come to his aid just yet. Meanwhile, Calia storms the tower and meets the orc boss in his lair. Voll is there as well, but is not able to prevent the foul leader from cutting down the dwarven wildlander and finishing off the job, execution-style. Having no where to go and refusing to surrender, the orc stands and fights until death. In the end, one of the orc lackeys escapes down the western tunnel, but he is not pursued.

After the battle, Bollin is restored to health, but unfortunately Calia has joined her lover in a tragic end.
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Tom
Session 5 - December 17, 2010
Start of Session:
Evening, 19th of Dorsham

End of Session:
Afternoon, 20th of Dorsham



The Action:
The party says its farewells to Gruk, and investigates the nesting site of the faarn. The only thing of value that is found is a bag of old coins and cut gems. Tolmaar claims the Durgis urutuks and finds that the weapons feel natural in his hands.

The evening's rest passes uneventfully, and the next morning the party does not travel far before they hear the sound of a steel against steel. Hurrying forward, they get there in time to witness the tail end of a battle between orcs and dwarves. The two remaining dwarves are outnumbered by a dozen orc soldiers. A slew of orc and dwarf corpses lie littering the scene. Our heroes join the fray and with the help of a mysterious newcomer defeat the orcs. Only one of the dwarves survives and he is revived. He introduces himself as Golan of Cardaal Clan and invites them to accompany him to his home.

The other ally is a human Erenlander named Bollin. This giant of a man stands over 8 feet tall and wields an intricately carved large quarterstaff. He explains that he has been hunting this particular orc brigade down from the plains, though he is unclear on what exactly they did to merit his attention. Bollin seems friendly and is invited to join the party as they find their way out of the Kaladruns.

At the end of a short day's hike the group arrives in the environs of Pardrum Holdfast. They pass a dozen 5-foot poles stacked with the rotting heads of orcs slain in battle before they force themselves through a small opening in the mouth of an ornately carved dragon's head in the cavern wall.

Golan brings them out and up to the gate of the holdfast, where they are challenged by Thedron, Dor of Cardaal Clan. Golan is whisked away by the guards and they are taken to holding cells, where they are given food and drink.

After a few hours the party is brought in front of Thedron and other members of the Pardrum council. There it is revealed that Golan is a son of a council member and has told his father all about the party coming to his aid. The group is welcomed as honored guests and are invited to stay as long as they wish.
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Tom
Session 4 - December 3, 2010
Start of Session:
Afternoon, 18th of Dorsham
Entrance to a cave, in the Kaladruns

End of Session:
Early evening, 19th of Dorsham
Under the Kaladruns



The Action:
The party descends the stairs down to a series of 4 chambers. The first room is empty except for a pile of ort bones in one corner. The second contains a dwarven table and stacked crates, filled with old rotted foodstuffs. The third has an ancient chest filled with old rusty weapons. The final room is smaller and is empty save for a broken wooden door and the preserved upper half of a dwarven corpse (forshadowing?).

Before continuing, the group returns to the cave entrance, but find that it has closed again, and are not able to figure out how to reopen it from the inside. Having no other ideas, they continue onward.

Another set of stairs leads them down over a thousand feet into the depths of a large cavern. Content with exploring the cave, the party finds a unique structure seemingly formed from stalagmites. From a distance, it resembles a set of figures standing erect. As Voll takes a closer look at the formation, a small pool moves toward him and suddenly lashes out with gray pseudopods. Alric is quick to notice and pummels the slime with rocks from his sling. Soon the rest of the party are drawn into the fray, and an unfortunate Gruk is enveloped by the goo. Feeling the burn from an acidic substance, he realizes his armor has been completely devoured. Soon enough, the dwarf's allies are able to free him, and the mysterious slime is relieved of its miserable existence.

Strapping on a spare set of hide armor, Gruk licks his wounds and the exploration continues. During the course of the day, several sets of dwarven rune markers are found along the walls of the cave, seemingly pointing in the direction of a shallow stream of water.

A side passage is investigated, and it leads to a stinking pile of filth, which has been piled up at the end of a small natural chamber. They can see various bits of animal and humanoid body parts extending from the pile. Brimming with nausea and trepidation, the group decides to leave this section without investigating more.

Further down the main passage a pack of large rat-like creatures known as orts are discovered moving about the muddy stream. Alric eggs them on, and the aggressive creatures charge at the fivesome, hoping that they have found a new foodsource. The orts are resilient but eventually are overwhelmed. The few remaining attempt to flee down a nearby passage and are followed until they reach a lair inhabited by a couple of dozen of the little buggers. The orts are intent on defending their brood, and so do not follow our heroes as they retreat slowly back to the relative safety of the main cavern. At this point the party is battered and tired, and so decide to spend a night's rest in one of the upper rooms.

The next day the group ventures deeper into the cave. After several hours of travel, they come to an open space inhabited by 1000s of sleeping bats. Our intrepid heroes sprint through the room but do not avoid the detection of the flying rodents, who begin to swarm the group, biting and scratching, and frenzied by the smell of blood. The party flees under the cover of Tolmaar's dazzling spells, and eventually the bats are too stupified to continue pursuit.

Several more hours and the party encounters a deep chasm that ends the path of the stream. From the other side, they can hear the sounds of a struggle, most likely 2 large creatures having a go at each other. When the soudns die down, the group leaps over the abyss and investigate the site of the skirmish. Tolmaar identifies the body of a large insectoid creature as a "faarn." He explains that it is a dangerous creature whose gaze should be avoided. They also find a faarn arm that doesn't belong to the dead one. Just when Wendell discovers evidence of a nest, another faarn (this one with only 1 arm) emerges from a nearby tunnel and completely overwhelms Gruk. Fighting for his life, the dwarf scores a few desperate hits, but not before he is viciously and mercilessly torn apart by the mandibles of the giant creature. The rest of the group fights valiantly, except for Tolmaar, who becomes confused under the gaze of the faarn and attacks Voll instead.

With determination, the monster is finished off and Tolmaar is restrained. The party gasps for breath as they recover from the shock of the violent encounter, and grief starts to sink in as they realize that their fallen comrade is beyond saving.
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Tom
Session 3 - November 19, 2010
Start of Session:
Evening, 14th of Dorsham
Kurgun Falls

End of Session:
Afternoon, 18th of Dorsham
Entrance to a cave, in the Kaladruns


The Action:
As the party crosses the valley in the darkness, it is set upon by a foul group of ungral - the very goblins they slayed before they were forced to flee Kurgun Falls! Nine of the undead goblins creep out of the pool of water to attack our heroes. It is a grizzly fight, and both Wendell and Tolmaar are woudned. But the adventurers get the better of the goblins, and with the help of Gruk's merciless axes, the ungral are soon but a stained memory on the rocks of the misty falls. Continuing on a bit, the party finds refuge along the crags of the pass.

The next day is dedicated to travel, and passes without trouble. On the afternoon of the next day, however, shrieks of terror are heard down the river. As Alric and Voll move forward to investigate, they spot a pair of ogres harassing a trio of children on the edge of the river. Alric distracts the beasts and hurls stones at them, while Voll rushes up to engage them and draw their attacks. The rest of the cavalry arrives in short time. Voll single-handedly holds off the ogres as the rest of the group takes pot-shots at them, until Gruk can move into melee. The giant creatures are taken down, but not before Voll takes a good blow to the ribs, which is immediately tended to by Tolmaar.

Alric finds that the children speak Norther and is able to discern that they are from a clan located in the nearby bluffs by the river. Overcoming their initial shock of seeing a dwarf and an elf, they lead the party to their camp, where they are greeted by Gareth Orin. There they behold a pitiful group of Dornish refugees, driven from their homes near Low Rock by the orcish hordes invading from the north. They are constantly on the move, ever southwards, away from the orc menace. Gareth is grateful for the help given to the children and offers them a place at their campfire. They are dirty and gaunt, their shelters are insufficient, they have few blankets and almost no warm clothes. They are truly pathetic and desperate, but there is a nobility to their tenacity in the face of despair. Alric takes the plight of the refugees to heart and gives up most of his rations, as well as valuable weapons, armor, and supplies from the party's loot.

The children warm up to Tolmaar and Gruk and soon start hurling a barrage of endless questions, which the poor adventurers have no chance to keep up with. Alric asks about any strange news and Gareth mentions that some of the children have noticed animals in the mountains acting strangely, wolves following them but not attacking, etc. After a night of rest, Alric offers to travel with the Dorns, but they indiate their path is southward, and not toward Erenhead (as Alric has indicated as their destination).

Westward following the Carina, at one point Gruk notices a faint stone carving in the walls of the canyon. It is a curious symbol - almost imperceptible. The group spends many hours studying it and examining the surrounding cliff walls (as well as the walls opposite on the other side of the river). Nothing else is revealed, so the group decides to camp here, hoping that the moonlight might trigger or reveal an additional nuggat of information.

During Gruk's watch that night, he notices a wide area of stars being blacked out, as a large dark form crosses the sky, following the river.

After resuming travel the next day, Voll notices another well-worn stone marker off the path. This time, an investigation reveals a hidden crevasse in the bluff face that leads to the south and higher ground. The deep joint in the rock leads upwards, and frequent carvings are found along the narrow path. The path stops at an overhang, where it narrows to an impassible crack. A ring of dwarven pictographs carved in the rock marks the right-hand wall. Tolmaar is able to decipher the runes and determines that each picture represents a line in an old dwarven nursery rhyme called "I Swing My Axe." There is a dial in the center, and the party guesses that you need to get the order of the rhyme correct in order to activate it. Unfortunately, neither Gruk nor Tolmaar quite remember the correct order of the poem.

Gruk decides to take a guess anyway, and by some stroke of luck he manages to guess correctly. The crack widens slowly and reveals a set of stone stairs descending into darkness.
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Tom
Session 2 - Novermber 5, 2010
Start of Session:
Evening, 11th of Dorsham
A few hours hike from Durgis Rock

End of Session:
Evening, 14th of Dorsham
Kurgun Falls


The Action:
After putting the orc out of its misery the group huddles up and comes up with a plan on how to approach Durgis Rock. The pace is doubled and within 1 hour they see the walls of the settlement, and the glow of a blazing bonfire beyond it. The smell of burning flesh is pungent in the crisp mountain air, and a sinking feeling is felt in the guts of those who call this place home.

After a bit of scouting, the group decides to take a vantage point atop one of the many crags that overlook the town. From there they can see a scene of destruction and death. Goblins are chaining up female and child prisoners, orcs are hauling loot out of the Hall of Heroes, and three giant stone creatures carry dead bodies over to throw onto the bonfire. The battle is over and our heroes now witness the aftermath.

Rhiann uses her powers to discern the presence of a small contingent of orcs in the Hall. It is then that she reveals that she has more power than was on display at the falls in the fight against the stone giant. The party agrees to split up - the Erethor elves will take on the goblins and the stone giants, while the rest of the party infiltrates the Hall of Heroes and seeks out Woden.

Dunk and Gruk guide their companions through a series of secret tunnels and defiles under the rock and into the library of the Hall. There they observe an orc burning a pile of books and scrolls and take him by surprise. After quickly dispatching of the invader, the group presses on towards the hall of records. Tolmaar gives up the element of surprise for a shot at one of the orcs in this room, and the battle is on. The orcs are armed with sturdy armor and large vardatches, but the battle is soon ended, with our heroes victorious.

Alric begins a search through the stacked up bodies and comes across the mortally wounded dorthane. When Voll approaches to apply aid, Woden fiercely fights him back until Gruk calms him down. The dying monarch snatches Gruk by the collar and beseeches him to deliver a package to the queen of the elves. After describing where to find it, he dies peacefully, leaving faithful subjects in grief.

The object of Woden's speech is found, in a hidden compartment in one of the pillars. It is a hard leather tube capped with an intricately worked golden dragon. The tube is handed to Tolmaar for safe-keeping. Gruk recovers the ancestral prize of the clan, a matched set of urutuks named the Wrath of the Moon and the Fury of the Sun. As soon as he grips the handles he is overtaken with a sense of duty, and the weapons feel comfortable in his hands. Taking stock of the rest of the room, the cost to the clan was great; 14 dwarves fell here, including Kishal the Loremaster and the axemaster Goran. They made a strong stand, however, as is evidenced by the dozens of orc corpses around them. Woden is given a quick ceremony and the group then leaves the building.

Outside the remainder of the battle has just ended. The three stone giants have been destroyed, but at the cost of the lives of the elves. Bayal lays crushed underneath the bulk of one, and Eirinn is a lifeless bloody mess slumped against a wall. Rhiann lies a distance away fighting for breath, attended by a freed dwarven woman. In the background, lit by the flickering firelight and a soft falling of snow, the rest of the dwarven women slit the throats of sleeping goblins with the captors' own knives.

Rhiann refuses treatment from Voll, for her wounds are not curable. Tolmaar speculates that she exceeded her casting ability, and paid the ultimate price. Before passing on, she urges the party to take Woden's gift to Aradil. She then seems to channel the voice of the Witch Queen herself, and eerily address the group to "bring the case to Caradul... bring the case to me." When she dies her eyes slowly lose the blackness they are accustomed to and take a more natural beautiful green color.

After these dramatic scenes the remaining prisoners are freed and tended to. All in all there are 6 women and 17 young children left. The rest of the clan have been eradicated. The dead are given their proper ceremony as the discussion moves toward what to do now. It starts to dawn on people that a lot of loot has been left here in town and someone might come back looking for it. Dunk seems eager to leave this place and guide the refugees toward Silver Vein, a mining village several days to the north. Meanwhile, Merra, one of the femail survivors, mention that the orcs were lead by a strange man on a black horse, accompanied by two massive wolves. He seemed to be angry that some "elven spies" were not found in the village.

Feeling the pressure of time, the party decides to let Dunk guide the villagers to Silver Vein, while Alric, Tolmaar, Gruk, Voll, and Wendell head southwards. It is a hard decision, but in the end there is a realization that splitting up could save 8-10 days on the journey.

Before leaving, the dead elves are arranged in the village so as to clearly leave a sign in case the army should return. Among their equipment that is not destroyed, the party decides to keep Bayal's icewood bow and Erunsil fighting knives, Rhiann's magic cloak, a hearthstone, a few dozen servings of Erethor Tea, and a magic quiver. When Tolmaar straps on the quiver, he feels a strange gripping sensation, and has a special insight as to its power.

The heroes gather the remaining provisions and gear and head out immediately back toward Kurgun Falls. By sunrise the group is physically exhausted and plans on finding a place to camp. As they settle in, Voll and Gruk are attacked by an invisible force that chills them to their bones. Wendell, astutely sensing the source of the disturbance, fires a crossbow bolt into a swirling wind. The rest of the party concentrate their attacks on that area and feel that their blows are met with resitance. The battle rages on and Gruk falls unconscious when a swirling column of debris is thrown about the site. Soon afterward, Tolmaar fires a magically-guided arrow and the danger seems to have gone. After the battle, an owl is seen perched atop a crag, watching the party intently. A revived Gruk tries to strike up a conversation with it, but it only stares at him with sharp eyes. The group licks their wounds and rests for the remainder of the night. The next day is spent resting as well.

The following 2 days are spent travelling. During the course of the journey, an owl (the same one?) is spotted again, and Wendell swears that they were paced by a fox at some point. Paranoia has obviously started to set in.

On the evening of the 14th, the party again approaches Kurgun Falls. Instead of camping here, they decided to move through, wary of the stone giant that was left here. As they attempt to sneak past the site, they notice that the figure stands motionless at the dwarven building, at approximately the same spot as they left it. But something else is lurking in the shadows...
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Game Master:
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Tom
Setting:
Homebrew (3.5)
487 other campaigns in this setting
Rule System: