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Pointer-left Gnoll

Gnyrn
Posted in Imago Deorum
Gnyrn's Final Entry
107th dripping moon of Yeenoghu

returned from successful ambush

prey had been spotted by scouts leaving keep before dawn

description matched one Dagnyra has wanted

set standard trap

mimiced the voice of a female human peasant

fell for bait

comrades took her down quickly with several arrows

dragged her and led horse into lair

bore good equipment:
crossbow
expensive bolts
fine chainmail
a magic scroll
ink and pen that I use now (old ink had run out and I gnawed on the pen)
lance
some other things

chained her to wall

Dagnyra gave female potion to prevent her from dying before we could torture her

I asked her her name in Common. She said Rhinda.

Dagnyra was angry

said we grabbed wrong female

ordered us not to eat her yet

stormed off to room

pack was hungry

so we slew the horse

female cried

pack began to grab at horse's limbs to eat

stopped them

cut out horse's tongue and pressed to her mouth

vomited

stuffed tongue in mouth

made her chew

passed out

cut off horse foreleg

let pack feed

fed Yeenoghu

fed troll the leg

good day, except that Dagnyra is angry

Now I will sleep.

woken by Gnurl

two elves have invaded

troll sent them running

Toryc was killed

was weakling anyway

had midnight snack

tasted much better than horse
Session: 25th Game Session (Double Marathon Session!) - Sunday, Jan 12 2014 from 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM
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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Imago Deorum
Chapter 3 — Aftermath
   "Argh!" moaned Jayce in pain, as he rolled the magically slumbering gnoll off himself. "You... shot me..., Leokas."

   "Forgive me, Jayce. I thought I had the shot." Leokas approached him. "It's through your lung. You will live. Don't move. This will hurt, but it will be quick." He yanked the shaft clean out of the front of Jayce's chest, as the latter screamed in pain, arching his back. "Mythlos! Your sword, quick." Mythlos rushed over and touched the flat of his blade to the wound twice. It sealed up, and Jayce sighed in relieve.

   "Save your third healing for the captain," said Jayce. "He and I deserve a smoke after this."

   Romar already had the same idea; his pipe was out and he was reaching for his flintstone and tobacco as Kyrin and Hakam looked him over. "I'll be fine now, Milady" he muttered. "Your prayer saved me, good cleric. For that, I thank you." He did not look fine; the scar around his neck made it appear as if his head had been glued back on. Mythlos touched his sword to the man's shoulder, and more positive energy flowed out.

   The countess stood. "We must search the rest of this lair," she said, "before any reinforcements arrive. One of you, remove the gnoll's armor. Tie it up tightly." Leokas complied, using one of his strongest knots.

   "Two of you, drag him to the surface to be guarded. When he awakes we'll question him. Return with several of the men. We may need assistance carrying loot or evidence from this demon-hole."

~~~~


   Belvin and Leokas carried the unconscious gnoll to the surface, where they found that the waiting cavalry men had slain the fleeing hyena. They were joyful upon hearing the news of the successful attack and reported that the men on horseback who had been scouting the perimeter had reported no sign of any other gnolls. Three of them volunteered to descend back into the cave with the elves, while the rest guarded the bound gnoll.

   They made their way by torchlight to the others in the chamber from which the hyenas had come. The room was large and roughly rectangular, with an eight-foot deep pit full of bones and hyena dung. A wooden ramp had been lowered into it to allow the hyenas to exit. On the opposite corner, the rest of the group was trying to talk to an old and ragged man that Mythlos had seen earlier when he had quickly explored the area. The man cowered on the ground. Most of his white hair had fallen out. Jayce had given him a swig of his water and a portion of rations, which the man ravenously gobbled up.

   "Greetings, friend," said Jayce. "I see you are hungry. We can get you more food later. You can trust us. What is your name?"

   The man stared blankly.

   "Why are you here?"

   The man continued staring.

   "Are you hurt?"

   "No,... no pain."

   "When is the last time you've seen the sun?"

   "Sun?"

   "Who are you?" asked Mythlos.

   "Can't... remember."

   "Where are you from?" Jayce asked. "Do you remember that?"

   The man was silent.

   "What do you do here?" tried Romar.

   "Work."

   "He's a slave," said Mythlos.

   "Are there other humans here?" asked Kyrin.

   The man shook his head.

   "Have there been?"

   The man looked at the ground as if he did not hear the question.

   "Anachtyr, show me his thoughts," Hakam prayed in Alzhedo. "His mind seems incoherent," he reported to the others, once his spell came into effect.

   "You can read minds?" asked Belvin. "Couldn't that be considered stealing?"

   Hakam ignored the elf. "I think this poor soul is insane from the torture."

   Belvin nocked an arrow. "Let's end his misery then," he said. "He is only a burden to himself and to us."

   "No!" said Kyrin sternly. "Hakam and Jayce, escort this man to the surface; then return to the central chamber, where we will be going through the gnoll corpses."

   As they walked with the old man, Jayce asked Hakam, "What does the law dictate that we do to any monsters we capture alive."

   "Monsters have no legal standing," replied Hakam. "They are not protected."

   "So they should be killed without trial."

   The cleric nodded. "If they have done evil, yes."

   "Light!" said the old man suddenly. It was not a tone of delight; he covered his eyes and stopped moving forward.

   "He has forgotten the sun," said Hakam, "remember?"

   "Here," said Jayce to the man, "let me put these on you." He placed his sun lenses on the man, who now seemed content to move forward out into the daylight, where they handed off the man into the care of the guards.

~~~~


   In the large chamber, they joined the others in looking around the fallen and burned bodies of the gnolls. Their camp fire was now extinguished, and the awful stench of gnoll was now unmasked from the smell of burning wood. They found a spattering of coins and small trinkets, the most notable being a silver comb embedded with moonstones.

   "When I quickly searched around earlier, there were several unarmed gnolls in that direction," said Mythlos pointing to the east.

   "The smell would get worse from that direction," noted Kyrin. They approached a ten-foot chamber opening and entered a smaller square-ish room. There was a pit in the center, about ten feet in diameter. The stench was nauseating from the pit, and swarms of flies buzzed about. Across the pit, along the far wall, seven naked gnolls sat crouched, acting indifferent to the intruders.

   "This must be their refuse pit," said Romar.

   Jayce called out to the gnolls, "Do you speak Common?" They did not reply or even so much as turn their heads.

   "If you speak Common, answer us, or we will kill all of you." Kyrin drew a javelin from her back. There was no response.

   She drew back her arm, but Leokas stayed her throw. "What if they are children, milady?"

   "They are easily seven-foot tall when standing;" she answered, "they cannot be their young. Besides, this is the lair of a warband, not a tribe. If we do not kill them, they will be out raiding tomorrow."

   "How much do you think a gnoll head sells for at The Fine Gold Chain?" asked Belvin to no one in particular.

   Kyrin eyed him strangely. Then she said to her captain, "Captain Burnhill, set a guard here with one of the men. We will interrogate the gnoll sergeant first before determining the fate of these."

   "Yes, milady."

   "Mythlos, where to next? Take us away from this smell and filth."

   "They had some sort of altar this way," he replied, and they walked north a short distance into another opening, passing into an oval room. While this room smelled better, it was far more disturbing. Against the north wall, in a large pile, was a collection of skulls, most of them clearly human, but there were a few other humanoid skulls as well; the tiny skulls of halflings and the sharply angled skulls of elves were easily spotted. Hanging on the eastern wall was a hideously carved idol, the deformed shape of a gnoll with needle-like teeth protruding and a long, barbed demon tail. The deity portrayed seemed familiar to Jayce from one of the tales he had read on his travels, but he could not place it. On the southern wall was a large cave painting, likely painted with blood. It portrayed a pack of hyenas devouring fleeing little demons or imps with horns and barbed tails. Then, there was the image of an enormous, pregnant hyena, lying on her back and giving birth to a multitude of gnolls through what looked to be an exaggerated male appendage. (Leokas recalled that Stedd Buckman had once explained to him his belief that hyenas were hermaphrodites.)

   "It's their history," stated Mythlos.

   Belvin approached the large stone slab in the center of the chamber. It was covered in sticky, dried blood. "Some of this is fresh," he said. Then, he dipped a finger in a small pool and tasted a bit of it. "Horse blood," he said.

   "Rhinda had a horse," said Hakam.

   "Not any more," said Belvin.

   "Where is the body of the horse?" asked Leokas.

   "Perhaps they already consumed it," said Jayce.

   "Let us leave this unholy place," said Hakam.

   No one needed any convincing at that suggestion.

   "We have not explored further into the cave at the back of the large chamber," said Mythlos. "Come." He led the way, followed by Hakam. Jayce and Kyrin were in the rear.

   "I would ask you a question, if you would permit me, milady," the bard said to Kyrin.

   "Ask."

   "Forgive me, for I should have thought to ask you this sooner, but the woman we are searching for is named Rhinda. She looks very similar to you. She is not, I fear, a relation of yours?"

   "I have six siblings," answered Kyrin, "but none are named Rhinda. I do not know the woman you seek."

   A snarl interrupted their conversation. A hyena had leapt at Mythlos from a small side tunnel. Hakam and then Mythlos swung their swords and swiftly killed the animal. "Good posture, Hakam," said Mythlos. "You listened to what I taught you yesterday."

   "Thank you," said Hakam. Then he called to the rest, "The hyena seemed to have been guarding this small tunnel here. There is a wooden door at the end."

   "That probably leads to the same door in the room with the hyena pit," said Leokas. "Belvin and I will block escape from that way." The two of them rushed off.

   Mythlos led the way down the short tunnel and opened the door, which was unlocked. It swung in, revealing a ten-by-fifteen-foot room carved out of the stone. In one corner was a pile of leaves and hay; in the other was a stone slab that seemed to serve as a desk. Hakam let Bevlin and Leokas into the room from the second door on the north wall, while Jayce approached the "desk". "There is a leather journal here," he said, picking it up. Flipping through the pages, he could not recognize the scratchy letters or the language. "Can anyone speak Gnoll?" he asked. No one could.

   "We'll force our prisoner to read it for us," said Kyrin. "This was likely its chamber. I do not think it was the leader of the pack. Be careful still; another battle may still await us."

   They left the room and returned to the large central chamber. "There is a little alcove over here," noted Hakam. In the small space was a pit, surrounded by a very short wall of rounded stones. "The air smells fresher here," said Hakam.

   Leokas found a stone and dropped it in the pit. Shortly, they heard a splash. "A well."

   Hakam prayed for his eyes to be open to magical auras and peered over the edge. "I see nothing magical," he informed the others.

   Only one passage more remained to be explored, to the south, at the back of the cave. The wide tunnel curved a bit to the left and opened into an even larger cavern chamber than the central one. In one corner their torchlight revealed a large collection of sacks. On the far walls, they could make out chains and manacles. In the center of the large room was a half-eaten, white horse.

   "That, I deem, was Pearl," said Jayce. "May she rest in peace."

   "But no sign of Rhinda," said Leokas.

   "Was the horse dessert or the main course?" asked Belvin.

   "You did not taste human blood on the altar, though?" said Kyrin. "Perhaps your companion still lives. She would have been chained here, perhaps, against this wall. I see one more tunnel over there, which we have not yet searched."

   "Rhinda's armor and supplies are over here," called Mythlos from the corner. He had gone to examine the sacks, which contained loot presumably gathered by the gnolls from their victims.

   "You two," the countess said to her two horsemen, "carry those sacks and the woman's supplies to the surface. The rest of you, follow me, and have your weapons ready."

   The final, ten-foot long, narrow tunnel led to another wooden door. It was locked. "None of the gnolls we slew bore keys," said Jayce.

   In answer, Kyrin swung her longsword at the door, cutting soundly through the wood near the locking mechanism in a single blow. Then, she kicked the door open.

   The room beyond, however, was empty; there was no gnoll awaiting nor any sign of their missing paladin. Kyrin looked depressed. "I was hoping this excursion would end in happier news," she said, "or at least my sword through the heart of a gnoll chieftan."

   "There could still be hope," said Jayce. "See, here is another journal. Perhaps we can learn something of what happened to Rhinda or even your...."

   "It will bring me no comfort to learn of how they tortured, slaughtered, and killed my love," she answered coldly.

   The others filed in and looked around the room. It was a round room, about fifteen feet in diameter. There was a large gnoll "bed" and another stone slab, from which Jayce had taken the second journal, which he was now perusing. On one wall there hung a finely carved set of nunchaku, chainsticks, an exotic weapon from Kara-Tur. Below the nunchaku hung a tiny pair of shrunken feet. On another wall hung a large double axe, the kind used by orc warriors. Below this, hung a set of white tusks.

   "This is very odd," said Jayce. "Look at this!" He held the journal open to a middle page, which was written in a similar scrawl as the other journal. Then he turned the page. The writing completely changed. The page was covered in strange symbols that none of them had ever seen before. "I don't think I've ever seen a language like this."

   Nor had any of the others.

   Mythlos was observing the walls closely. "Something does not seem natural about this wall...," he said. He spotted a round hole about four inches in diameter. Inserting his hand into the hole, he felt a sort of handle, which he pushed. There was a loud click.

   "What was that?"

   "I think I unlocked something," said Mythlos. "But what?"

   "Try pushing the wall," suggested Leokas. They did, and it slid back and opened to reveal a hidden passage.

   Excitedly, the band moved through the new tunnel, weapons drawn. After maybe 300 yards, they could see a speck of light. In 500, they could hear waves and smell the ocean. "This must exit to the cliffs."

   It did. They came out into sunlight about 30 feet above a small sliver of beach below. "It is near low tide," said Mythlos.

   "Unless the gnoll had a boat, it could only have escaped just now, or it has a 24-hour lead on us," said Kyrin.

   There was a treacherous, step-like, narrow path down to the bottom. "I'll see if I can make out any tracks," offered Leokas. He descended nimbly and began to search around. "I see nothing of tracks," he called up to the others.

   "Come," said Kyrin, turning back into the tunnel, "we have an interrogation to do."

~~~~


   Back at the surface, they stood around their prisoner. The bound gnoll had woken and was struggling against its bindings. Two guards held spears to its neck, and it ceased the struggle.

   "Let's have a little talk, gnoll," Jayce began, "like friends."

   The gnoll snorted and perhaps smiled.

   "My name is Jayce. What are you called?"

   The gnoll stared at him.

   "Look, I know you can speak Common. Surely, your noble race has better courtesy than this...."

   The gnoll snarled derisively. "We are a powerful race, not a courteous one. Courtesy is for the weak. But my name is Gnyrn."

   "That's better. Are you the leader of this pack?" asked Jayce.

   "No."

   "Who is the leader?"

   "Dagnyra."

   "Is he a gnoll?"

   "She is a gnoll."

   "Where is she now?"

   "I do not know."

   Jayce did not sense deception in Gnyrn's voice. "Does she leave the lair often?"

   "She does as she pleases. I care not what she does with her time."

   "Enough of her then; I want to know about what prisoners you have taken recently."

   "Prisoners? Do you mean food?" The gnoll smiled wickedly.

   "You sometimes spare your victims, do you not? Else there would not be shackles on the wall in the back of the cavern nor the human slave that we freed."

   "We enjoy torturing our food before we eat it," Gnyrn said, licking his lips. "That is why we have shackels."

   "What happened to the woman paladin you captured yesterday morning? We came across her belongings."

   "Yes, there was a female knight. Was she a friend of yours?"

   "No, I don't know anything about her except that she went missing," said Kyrin.

   "She was a mercenary hired by us," said Jayce.

   "You lie," said Gnyrn, smiling and licking his lips yet again. "She was a friend of yours."

   "Where is she?"

   "Parts of her are in my stomach," Gnyrn replied.

   "Now you are bluffing," said Jayce. "Tell us where she is."

   "I know not. Perhaps Dagnyra kept her for herself. She always enjoyed the finest meats, and the woman had a meaty rump and thighs."

   "When did you last see the woman?"

   "I saw her last when we forced her to taste her own horse." Gnyrn threw his head back and gave a hyena-like cackle.

   Jayce ignored his disgust. "Then what?"

   "Then I slept. The woman was gone in the morning."

   "Is it common for one of your leaders to keep a prisoner for itself?" asked Kyrin.

   "No."

   "Has Dagnyra been acting strange in other ways lately?" asked Jayce.

   "She led the pack; I did what she said without question. If I led the pack, I would have killed more of you humans and feasted on your flesh, and I would have shared your flesh with the rest of the pack."

   He held out the second journal. "Is this Dagnyra's journal?"

   "It could be."

   "It could be?"

   "Why would I have seen my pack leader's private journal?"

   Jayce held the journal open to the last page. "Read this."

   "I cannot."

   "Is it not gnoll?"

   "No!" Gnyrn sounded insulted. "I've never seen those signs."

   "Then read this instead." He flipped to the page before where the language change occured.

   "'35th blood moon of Yeenoghu. We took a farmer and his woman and their mule and their carriage. Her hair will make excellent rope....'"

   "Enough!" said Kyrin.

   "When was this '35th blood moon'?" asked Jayce.

   "Many moons ago."

   "How many? What date in the Dale Reckoning?"

   "Why would I have wasted time learning your human methods of keeping time?"

   "You do not have a large collection of loot here in this cavern for the number of prisoners you must have taken," Kyrin stated. "What do you do with everything you capture?"

   "It is traded with a nearby tribe."

   Kyrin grew interested in this. "A tribe? Where?"

   The prisoner cackled. "Why would I tell you that?"

   "We have seven hostages, which we will execute if you do not cooperate with us," she said.

   Gnyrn laughed again. "I care nothing for slaves."

   "We will not hesitate to torture you," said Jayce.

   Gnyrn spit at him.

   Kyrin drew her sword, "See here, demonspawn. If you do not speak with us, I will cut out your intestines while you still live and strangle you with them. Do you care about that?"

   "You are fiesty for a female human," said the gnoll in its gruff voice. "You would make a good servant of Yeenoghu, if you grew some fur and a...."

   Kyrin slashed at Gnyrn's stomach. "Don't try me," she said.

   "Near Vineshade," said Gnyrn, gasping at the pain.

   "How many?"

   "About 300."

   "I am finished with you," said Kyrin. She turned away from him and strode off. "Mythlos," she said, "kill the monster."

   Mythlos obeyed. Gnyrn threw his head back and screamed, "Krigyash Yeenoghu!" just before his head left its body.

   Kyrin gave more orders, "Someone go down and execute the remaining seven gnolls.

   "Milady," Leokas protested, "are gnolls inherently evil that you should kill a slave?"

   She disregarded this. "The rest of you, begin to load up the horses."

   Hakam and Belvin descended back into the cave to perform the executions and recover Romar.

   As the men loaded up the loot and prepared the horses, Jayce approached Kyrin. "Milady, should we set an ambush here for if the leader returns?"

   "How can we know if and when that will happen?" She picked up Gnyrn's head and mounted it on a spear near the lair entrance. "We will take the journals back to Rontal. He has a large library and may know someone who can read Gnoll and perhaps the other strange language, or else he may know a spell to do so."

   Bevlin and Hakam returned to the surface, the former bearing a few more heads. Jayce cautioned Kyrin, "Milady Countess, you may wish to know that we have some concerns about Rontal."

   "He has some concerns," said Hakam, who joined them. "Let's not jump to conclusions."

   "I sensed that he knew more than he was telling us about the... passing of Master Ersemm. I'm not accusing!"

   "What evidence do you have?" asked Kyrin.

   Hakam shook his head.

   "Only my gut instincts, milady, but they are usually sound."

   "Who suspected the bandits that were to ambush us the other day, Jayce?" asked Hakam. "And who convinced the rest of the party to trust them?"

   "That was one time!" answered Jayce. "They probably used some magic to hide their intentions."

   "How do you feel about my farsann, Leokas?"

   "I must support that Jayce does have a talent for judging people's intentions. Moreover, I feel also that he is withholding something, but I know not what."

   "I know that Rontal is a good man," said Romar, "but there are other reasons one might want to hide things. Perhaps blackmail? I agree that it is wise to keep these things from him."

   "Fair enough," said Kyrin. "Captain, post a few men here as guards to overlook the cliffs. Have them send word to us if anyone or anything returns to this lair by surface or sea.

   "Everyone, mount up. We return to The Cliff to celebrate our victory and revenge!"
Session: 25th Game Session (Double Marathon Session!) - Sunday, Jan 12 2014 from 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM
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Epic!
Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Imago Deorum
Chapter 3 — Assault on the Gnoll Outpost (Or the Bloodiest Battle Yet)
~ third-day, 3rd of Ches, The Year of Wild Magic, dawn
Trade Way, south of Myratma



   At daybreak, a band of twenty-two riders headed northward on the road to Myratma. The air was brisk, but it was a much nicer day than the day before.

   Along the way, Lady Kyrin queried each of them on their adventures thus far. She showed little emotion the whole time. Despite his best attempts, Jayce only succeeded in making her smile once and then only partly.

   Belvin and Leokas led the way, as only they would recognize the spot where they would turn off. Next came Hakam, Jayce, Mythlos, and Kyrin. She was wearing very costly elven chainmail of delicate mithral rings and a skullcap with her hair tied back. She carried three javelins on her back and rode with a lance and shield upon a light warhorse. She bore no indications that she was of noble blood.

   Captain Burnhill, with helmet, breastplate, shield, and lance, followed, while his fifteen cavalry members followed in similar garb. His horse was enormous and barded in studded leather. A large mace dangled from Romar's belt, and he seemed calm as he smoked his pipe.

   "This is the place, or I be a dwarf," said Leokas. The riders left the road, walking their horses carefully up the slope to where the remains of Rhinda's battle could still be noticed in the grass. "It is further west and then south, about a quarter mile." Next, they reached the stony ground before the cliffs. "We should probably go on foot from here."

   Captain Burnhill called out orders. "Durn, Mark, ride to the edge of the cliff, ride south and come back, forming a perimeter. Brit, Kal, and Zed, stay with the horses. Everyone else, dismount and ready your swords and torches."

   Now reduced to seventeen, the party cautiously walked to the south, as Leokas kept his eyes on the ground for tracks or other signs of gnolls. "Those trees are where we tied our horses. We are within a hundred yards of the entrance."

   "Perhaps we should explore the surrounding area for rear entrances," Jayce suggested. They all agreed and split up into groups of two or three to do so.

   Jayce and Hakam spotted a rectangular opening in the ground amongst three boulders, a few inches wide and a foot long. "What's this?" said Jayce.

   "There's air flow here," said Hakam.

   "An air vent for the gnolls?"

   "I'd imagine so," said Hakam.

   "Should we drop anything in and see?"

   "I'm not sure how that will help us. If anything, it will only alert the gnolls to our presence, if this shaft truly descends into their lair."

   None of the others found another entrance beside the original one that Belvin and Leokas had found. They gathered around it, and the countess spoke. "As I am the most experienced adventurer here as well as the liege of most of you, I will take over from here."

   "She's our new Vashti!" Jayce whispered to Mythlos.

   "Listen carefully to the plan. Cavaliers, I brag about your prowess on horseback to all I see; you are all good men. Yet fighting underground is a very different thing. It will be too crowded for all of us to enter the lair, and your presence is better utilized on the surface. You cover our backs if any gnolls return to their lair while we descent. You will be needed to prevent any gnolls from escaping alive or to defend us if we are forced to fall back. Form two rows. Keep your torches lit and your swords at ready. I know that several of you have lost love ones to gnoll raids. Know your presence here honors their lives. You play a crucial roll. The legends that gnolls are birthed by demons are simply that. The beasts are mortal just like you or I; target their lower legs, as their hides are weakest there. Tymora smile on you, and may Tempus fill you with strength and courage.

   "We know there is at least one troll. Pray the gods there are not more! Those of you with fire magics, it is crucial that you use your spells to target the troll. I have fought a troll before. My blade is enchanted; I am certain I can wound it, but I will not be able to kill it without your fire or acid. Trolls are not afraid of anything. Even though it knows that fire will melt its regenerating flesh, it will not be scared of torches.

   "Are we ready for vengeance?"

   Everyone nodded.

   "Burnhill, open the door, then take the rear."

   "Yes, milady."

   "Leokas, stay near me, so you can inform me of what paths will be coming. I could also use your elven eyes and ears.

   "Onward!"

~~~~


   "There is a creature standing guard there ahead." Leokas pointed and whispered. "I think it is a hyena, as last time."

   "I cannot see it," said Kyrin.

   They heard a cackle and a hyena's call echoed in the dark. Leokas saw the beast turn and run deeper into the shadows. "I heard that," Kyrin said.

   "It can see our torches," said Leokas.

   "No matter. We are not rogues," said Kyrin. "I had no intent to use stealth. This is to be an all-out assault. Let the gnolls come to us, where we have the high ground. Where is your troll?"

   "There should be a passage coming on our.... Yes, here on the right is the first turn off. The troll will be to a passage just ahead on the left."

   Kyrin called back more orders. "Two of you, hold your position at the opening to this tunnel, so that we cannot be flanked. Burnhill, it makes the most sense for you, as you have no spells." Jayce volunteered to be the second. With a pitch of soot and salt between his fingertips, he began casting a spell to allow him to understand any language.

   Kyrin continued. "The gnolls will be waking up and coming up the tunnel slope. Do not let them pass. Leokas, lead on to the giant."

   They passed into the left tunnel, which opened into the troll's chamber. There it was, sleeping on the ground against the wall just as before. As they approached, Leokas drew and lit a flaming arrow he had prepared the night before. They stood within five feet of the monster and held their weapons ready. They heard the rousing battle song of Jayce's strumming. Leokas took that as his cue. He loosed the flaming projectile into the top of the sleeping troll's head. It awoke with a roar of pain and stumbled to its full hulking height, yanking the arrow shaft back out of its head. It swung at Leokas with its other long arm but missed in its waking stupor.

   In the passage, Mythlos slowly descended by the light of his drawn sword. After ten paces, he could see that the tunnel opened into a larger chamber. He could see a glowing firepit and several large gnolls. A few were bustling about, and a couple others were curled up on the ground in piles of hay and leaves. He only glanced for a moment, then darted back up the slope. "At least five gnolls," he called back, "probably more. A few were still sleeping."

   "Out of the way, then," said Belvin, who began casting. He ran down the slope to the point where Mythlos had been. He saw at least seven gnolls now. He pointed his finger into the chamber, and from the tip of his finger a spiral of flame formed, rapidly spinning into a large burning sphere, which dropped to the ground and began rolling into the chamber. It rolled directly onto one of the sleeping gnolls, and its bed burst into flame. Belvin pointed in a new direction and the ball of fire rapidly rolled another ten feet to ignite a second gnoll and its bed. Then it turned south and struck a standing gnoll. A hyena leaped out of the way and darted further back into the chamber out of sight. Then an advancing gnoll struck Belvin in the chest with its axe. It was only a light wound, but it was enough for him to lose his concentration. The flaming sphere fizzled away as he called out in pain.

   In the troll's chamber. Leokas stepped back behind Kyrin and fired another flaming arrow over her head into the monster. From his peripheral vision, he spotted another creature enter the chamber from another tunnel, coming up to Kyrin. "Your right, milady!" he warned.

   She seemed to ignore him at first. The troll had also glanced momentarily to its left, and she saw an opening. She swung her sword in a wide arc at the troll's sagging stomach, connecting in a manner that would have eviscerated a normal foe. Instead, the troll's opened flesh began to close up before their eyes. Then she twisted to swing at the advancing gnoll. Their weapons clashed. She twisted back again, just in time to take the blunt of the troll's swing against her shield. Its other claw then struck her against the chest. It snapped down on her with its jaws, biting her helmet and lifting her to her tiptoes. She pounded the side of its face with her pommel, and it dropped her. She cursed at it repeatedly, in language quite unbecoming for a noblewoman, and stepped back to position herself where she could defend against attacks from both the troll and the gnoll.

   Before Leokas could shoot again, another creature appeared, but this one out of thin air. Hakam had summoned a giant insect into the chamber from the celestial realms. It glowed faintly and had beautiful golden patterns on its otherwise black wing sheaths. It raised itself higher on its six long legs and pointed the tip of its abdomen below its body. There was a loud popping sound, and a spray of gas and liquid erupted from the beetle, spraying between its legs. The mixture covered the troll's body, and its skin sizzled and blistered.



   Jayce was listening to the sounds of yipping and yelling echoing throughout the caverns, though in his mind, it sounded just like his native Lantanese. "The elves returned!" "Lhyra, the troll!" "Gnurl, release the hyenas!" "Fire! Fire!" "Someone wake Gnyrn." "Shoot the elf! Shoot him!" "I bite your head off!" shouted the troll.

   Mythlos charged down the passage to assist Belvin, as an arrow struck the latter. Mythlos lunged at the gnoll, but tripped on the uneven flooring and nearly fell over before gaining his balance. The distraction was enough for Belvin to slash at the gnoll with his scimitar, throwing blood and fur. Another arrow struck Belvin in the stomach; another whizzed past his right shoulder and struck the stone wall of the tunnel. A charging gnoll reached him and struck with his axe, cutting through his leather breastplate, bruising his ribs, and drawing blood. Now Belvin and Mythlos, side-by-side in the ten-foot wide passage directly faced two angry gnolls with axes.

   They heard Jayce run up behind them. He tossed something underhand between them and the two gnolls. The tiny object sparkled by the blue light of Mythlos' sword. Then, there was a deafening rumble, something like a single gong of a large church bell but extraordinarily louder. The boom echoed many times throughout the caverns, and the shock wave could be felt in their chests. Mythlos and Belvin were almost certain that their hearts had literally skipped a beat.

   "What was...?" shouted Hakam from behind them, as the boom prevented him from starting a second summoning spell.

   "Mithral bell," answered Jayce, before he finished the question.

   The gnoll in front of Mythlos turned to look back in the direction of the boom, and in that moment, Mythlos decapitated it. Its head rolled downhill to where the gnolls they could see stumbled around each other to avoid the burning beds of leaves and the bodies of their comrades blown over by the force of the magical shock wave.

   "I will swallow your intestines while you are still... a... live," Jayce understood the remaining gnoll in the passage say, as Belvin and then Mythlos silenced it with their weapons. It fell over the body of its headless partner, with two more deep gashes in its furry chest.

   Meanwhile, Leokas had dropped his bow, drawn his sword, and engaged the gnoll in his room. He avoided its shield and struck it soundly across its snout. It staggered back and snorted and returned a slash with its axe. Leokas stepped to avoid the swing, and it left a cut in his shin.

   Kyrin was focused on the troll, as the bloodied gnoll and Leokas fought behind her. She landed two blows, and then the troll snapped at her arm with its mouth. She shouted in pain and swung her torch at it. It let her go to avoid being struck and was promptly covered in another dose of beetle spray.

   Leokas and the gnoll parried each other's blows for a few seconds, before a second beetle appeared next to the elf. Immediately, the beetle snapped with its insectoid jaws. The gnoll yipped and fell to the ground as the giant beetle crawled over it.

   Leokas took the opportunity to drop his sword and retrieve his bow from the ground, as the troll and Kyrin faced each other, looking for openings. She found one. Lunging quickly to the side, she slashed low, cutting just below the monster's knobby knees. It buckled under its own weight, and as it stumbled forward, she held her sword upright and stabbed into its heart, pulling the blade out and stepping aside just in time before it almost crushed her as it fell. It landed face down on the stone floor with a slap, throwing dust into the air.

   "We need fire in here!" she called out. "Now!"

   "I'm coming!" Belvin called back from the main tunnel, but another arrow stung him as it grazed his right arm. Then another arrow struck the ceiling above his head.

   "Another bell would help," said Mythlos.

   "How about two?" said Jayce. There was an even louder rumbling gong, and several more gnolls in the crowded room ahead were knocked flat onto their backs as the sound stopped their hearts. A few others managed to remain standing but looked dazed.

   Belvin took the opportunity to turn and rush back up the tunnel. Hakam took Belvin's place by Mythlos' side to defend the tunnel and the high ground.

   As Belvin ran, he chanted and removed a red holly berry from his belt pouch with his left hand. He held his right hand in a fist, and a curved blade of flame erupted from an immaterial hilt. He turned into the troll chamber to see Leokas let loose two flaming arrows into the troll's back as it lay facedown on the ground. A giant beetle was biting at its head, and Kyrin was hacking at its legs. The beetle then vanished.

   "We need more fire than your arrows," said Kyrin, as she hacked entirely through the troll's left leg, just below the knee. "It's only unconscious and its heart will heal from my stab soon, if it hasn't already." Then she yelled in surprise as a gnoll, having come up behind her from the side tunnel, struck her in the back. The remaining glowing beetle covered the gnoll in burning fluids, and Leokas sent an arrow through its neck.

   Belvin reached the troll and began hacking at its neck with his magical blade. The sword burned and melted through several inches of flesh. "It's still alive?" he asked, as he saw it heave from breathing.

   Kyrin was hacking at its second leg. "Yes, its heart has started again. We must melt its flesh so it cannot heal."

   A second swing from Belvin cut the troll's head two-thirds of the way off. Its blood pressure burst through the melted flesh of its neck, and thick, green blood sprayed all over Belvin and began pouring out all over the ground. Still it breathed. They could see a tiny bud growing from its severed leg, which soon looked like a minature three-toed foot.

   Back in the tunnel, the gnolls that were standing after three blasts from the mithral bells kept coming. By now, the leaf-and-hay fires had burned out, and the living gnolls stepped and hopped over the other bodies. None of the remaining gnolls bore bows. Two had morning stars instead of axes. "Give up," Jayce called in Common. "You can see that you are defeated. If you surrender you will not be...."

   But a gnoll reached Hakam and struck him, though the studs in his armor deflected most of the blow. In response, Mythlos simultaneously severed both of its arms and its head with one swing.

   "...harmed," finished Jayce under his breath. "Oh, nevermind."

   "Is it lawful to behead a gnoll if it surrenders?" Mythlos asked Hakam.

   "I am fairly certain that the laws protecting gnomes from capital punishment in Tethyr do not apply to gnolls," replied Hakam, as he let fly a magical sling bullet, which embedded itself in one of the approaching opponents.

   "Good," said Mythlos, as he sent yet another gnoll head flipping into the air with a spray of red.

   They all heard a shout from further back up the main entrance tunnel. It was Captain Burnhill, who was still guarding the other side tunnel. "More are coming!" he shouted.

   "I'll hold this position," said Mythlos.

   So Hakam and Jayce ran together back up the hall toward the Captain.

   "How many?" Leokas called back from the other direction.

   "Three hyenas and a gnoll!"

   Leokas glanced back. He could see Burnhill standing with his torch and mace, and he spotted the head of a hyena snapping at the man's legs. Burnhill struck the hyena on the head, and it yelped.

   As Leokas turned his head back, another gnoll entered the chamber, swinging at the remaining beetle. The axe blade simply glanced off the glowing creature's thick exoskeleton, but then the beetle vanished. Leokas fired two arrows at the gnoll. The first grazed its shoulder; it blocked the second shot with its shield. It now reached and swung at Belvin, who was focused on hacking at the troll and was not paying attention to his backside. Blood sprayed.

   "Behind you, Belvin!" said Leokas, as another arrow was loosed. This time, the shot flew true, and the gnoll staggered with a arrow in its chest. Belvin spun around and set the gnoll's fur ablaze with his magic scimitar. It fell dead. Belvin kicked its burning body in disdain. Then he dropped to his knees, weakened by loss of blood.

   "Hakam!" Leokas called back, "Belvin is wounded."

   Hakam let fly a stone at the hyena Burnhill was fighting, but it struck the corner of the passage. "I am coming," he said, and he hustled toward the two elves and Kyrin. She had just finished cutting off the troll's second leg, but by now, its left leg had regrown to about the size of a child's. She sheathed her sword and removed a flask from her belt, as Hakam touched Belvin's shoulder to heal him.

   There was another deafening boom that shook all of them. Jayce had thrown another bell. However, his throw had accidently struck a stalactite and exploded before he intended. He now stood there wobbling, stunned by his own magic. Captain Burnhill fared worse; he was nearly knocked over and dropped his torch and mace. Two of the hyenas were dazed as well, but a third came forward and began gnawing on Burnhill's leg.

   Spinning around toward the source of the loud blast, Leokas looked back up the tunnel and spotted the gnoll that Burnhill had noted. Unlike the other gnolls, which all wore leathers, this one had a shirt of chain links and had a mohawk. It bore a large flail, a heavy lead weight attached by a chain to a rod held in both hands. This it swung at Jayce. The swing knocked a stalactite off the ceiling before slamming into Jayce and knocking him back. Leokas nocked and fired two more arrows but missed both shots, the second glancing off the gnoll's shoulder armor.

   There was barking and yelping, as the hyena's regained their composure and started snapping at Captain Burnhill's legs. Without a weapon, he could do nothing but kick at their heads with his armored boot. He bent down to try to grab his fallen mace, holding his shield up to defend against the gnoll's flail, and just in time, as it struck with a loud clang. Jayce shouted a magic word loudly at the gnoll, then spoke a quick comment to Burnhill, which the others could not understand.

   In the troll's chamber, Belvin returned to his task of hacking. He saw Kyrin pouring a thick liquid out of her flask all over the troll's body. "What is that?" he asked.

   She only replied, "Have fun with your sword, Belvin." Then she smiled at him and stepped back.

   So he struck again. With this blow, his sword melted through all but one inch of the monster's neck. This time, however, its body burst into flame, as the oil she had poured out liberally ignited. They had to step away from the heat of the burning. The troll's flesh blistered and oozed. Then the pools of blood around its neck and legs ignited also. The creature stopped breathing. Belvin ran into the fire quickly and gave the troll's head a solid kick. It tore off from the thin bit of mangled, melted flesh by which it was attached and rolled away.

   For their part, Hakam and Leokas had rushed back to help Jayce and Burnhill, Hakam drawing his sword as he hustled. Ignoring Jayce for some reason, the gnoll swung again at the Captain and missed, but one of the hyenas attached itself to his leg and yanked back, pulling him off his feet and unto his back, helpless. More arrows came from Leokas. The hyena yippped and whined and let go of the Captain momentarily. "Kyrin, your captain!" Leokas shouted back to her, as the gnoll raised his arms to bring down a devasting blow.

   "Here, friend," said Jayce suddenly to the gnoll in Common, "let me have the honor of striking him down." He reached out and took the flail from the charmed gnoll, who released it willingly, to the shock of the others. Jayce then swung the heavy weapon and struck the ground near Burnhill, intentionally missing.

   Belvin began heading up the passage to the others when Mythlos appeared behind him. "Where were you?" Belvin asked.

   "Checking the other passages for armed gnolls; I saw...," Mythlos began, when a hyena rushed up from behind them and latched unto the back of his leg. Mythlos back-kicked it off him. It yelped. Mythlos swung. It leapt aside only to be struck by Belvin's flaming sword. It dropped dead in a flash of fire, as its fur ignited.

   "The other's need our aid," said Belvin. "Come."

   They did indeed. While the gnoll had successfully been disarmed by Jayce's charming spell, the hyenas had not. They were upon Burnhill. He thrashed and screamed in pain, as a hyena each gnawed on his leg, his arm,... and his neck. His thrashing stopped with a final gurgling scream.

   "Captain!" shouted Kyrin, as she reached the fray. She struck the back of one hyena. It dropped flat on its stomach, whimpering. Leokas killed the other two with his arrows. Hakam struck the weaponless gnoll from behind, but the blade could not cut through the links in its chain shirt. The charm broken, the gnoll spun around and swung its furry fist at Hakam, but he ducked and avoided the blow.

   Kyrin and Jayce knelt down by Burnhill, as the one remaining hyena leapt past them over Burnhill's body and ran whining up the tunnel to the surface trailing blood. Hakam tried to approach as well, his hand aglow with positive energy, but the gnoll punched at him again, striking him soundly in the jaw this time. The glowing in his hand ceased. Kyrin reached for something on her belt, as Jayce held his hands to Burnhill's neck, trying to stop the splurting from the bite holes. It failed to do anything but cover his hands in blood. "I can't stop...."

   He was interupted; with a growl, the gnoll pounced on Jayce. "Give me my weapon!" he understood the beast to say. Human and gnoll rolled around on the ground. Leokas shot an arrow, but in the tumble of limbs, the arrow struck Jayce in the back instead of the gnoll.

   Belvin and Mythlos arrived, but did not know what to do. They watched as Kyrin poured a vial of liquid into Burnhill's mouth, and they saw the potion flow back out the side of his bloody neck. Hakam was fumbling for something in his pack. They saw the gnoll and Jayce wrestling on the floor. Jayce was currently on top with an arrow in his back.

   "You... should... probably let... me go...," he tried weakly. The gnoll head-butted him, then rolled them over. Jayce cried out as the arrow shoved deeper into his back.

   They saw Hakam read a prayer from a scroll, then he knelt down and touched Burnhill. With a jolt, the man coughed up blood and sat upright.

   Leokas nocked a snow-white shaft with white fletching and let it fly. It struck the gnoll in the back as it and Jayce rolled again. It appeared as if the arrow shattered into millions of white particles. The gnoll went completely limp and Jayce rolled free.

   The assault was over.
Session: 24th Game Session - Thursday, Dec 05 2013 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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Tags: Battle , Chapter 3 , Recap
Epic!
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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Imago Deorum
Chapter 3 — Kyrin
Mythlos, with his elven eyes, spotted them first. "I see Leokas and Belvin coming down the road!"

   "Is Rhinda with them?" asked Jayce from his mount.

   "No, it is just the two of them."

   "Are we down yet another paladin?" asked Hakam.

   "It seems so."

   They met, and Leokas explained to the others the details of their journey, of the gnoll outpost and their short battle and retreat from the troll. There was some debate as to whether to immediately head back to attack the outpost, but they decided against it. "I did not pray for any fire magic this morning," said Hakam. "And Belvin's power is spent. I assume Mythlos could prepare better spells as well. If Rhinda is alive now, she will still be tomorrow."

   "We'll prepare tonight and come back with force tomorrow," said Mythlos, "though I only know a single fire spell."

   "I seem to recall one of us had a very useful wand of acid. Who was that?" mocked Leokas. "I forget."

   "They are probably feeding her to the troll now," said Belvin.

   "Belvin!" said Jayce. "Have a little hope."

   As they began riding back to el Daraqadim together, Jayce asked, "Do you think they have any other entrances?"

   "We did not find any," said Leokas, "but we also did not look."

   "Did you find anything to implicate the farsann?"

   "Not at all. We really did not get in very far, just far enough to see two turn-offs and the troll. It was also completely dark. We couldn't really see anything beyond what was directly in front of us."

   "There were no torches?"

   "Gnolls live underground," said Hakam. "They are like dwarves and do not need any light to see. Why would they make it easier for invaders to enter their homes?"

   "They seem too organized for gnolls," said Mythlos, "setting an ambush off the road like that. I suspect they have a powerful leader."

~~~~


They returned to the keep just before dinner and returned the borrowed horses. Jayce immediately sought out the captain of the guard. "I must speak to you in confidence," he said. "Please do not tell the farsann, because I do not want the news I am about to share to worry the countess."

   "I do not answer to the farsann," Captain Burnhill replied. "I take orders directly from the countess. What is this report?"

   "My companions have found the gnoll outpost responsible for the raids and perhaps even the ambush of Master Ersemm."

   "This is indeed good news!"

   "They attempted to enter, but were pushed back by a troll."

   "That is not too surprising. The evil races often keep trolls as door guards. We will have to bring torches with us."

   "We?"

   "I have long waited for this day. I will prepare my men. Tomorrow, we will all ride to destroy these demon-spawn. I would be honored if you would join us."

   "How well-trained are your men? Those I've seen do not appear ready to face a troll — no offense to your leadership."

   "None taken. They can all ride well. Yes, most are simple folk who have only seen a few skirmishes here and there, but we will prevail; we must."

   "Don't you need permission from the countess to mount such an attack?"

   "It is a standing order to defend the county and the region around the county seat. She will wish she could ride with us, if she knew."

   Jayce paused, thinking. Then he said, "Perhaps we could arrange that?"

   "I thought you wished not worry her?"

   "In all honesty, it is actually that I do not trust the farsann," said Jayce.

   "Ah, I see you have been listening to some of the rumors from my men. Well, the problem is that only the farsann can arrange an audience with the countess."

   "I thought you said that you answered directly to her."

   "I do, but I still must request an audience through him."

   Jayce thought some more. "Round up your men," he said, "but do not do so openly. We will leave together at daybreak. I will wager that the countess herself will be with us."

~~~~


Jayce returned to the others, who were in one of the gardens, and informed them of the plan to set out first thing in the morning. "I also think it is time that we speak with the countess."

   "Do you expect to just walk into a noble's house and request an audience?" asked Hakam.

   "No, I have another idea," Jayce said, as he unslung his yarting. He removed a copper wire from his spell component pouch, made a quick hand motion, and spoke the words of a spell. He handed the wire to Leokas. "Here, hold this for a moment until I need it."

   Facing one of the balconies on the second story of the countess' house, he began to play a song, hoping she would hear the music through the wooden window grating. The song was about a young adventuress who traveled from Waterdeep and fought in battle for her friend, the future queen. Jayce tried his best to integrate all the details and tales of bravery he could recall from his time spent talking with folk at the keep. When he reached the refrain, and sang the name "Kyrin Hawkwinter" and how she would never stand idly by, he saw that his plan had worked. There was a figure in one of the windows listening. He quickly grabbed the wire from Leokas, pointed at the countess' window, and whispered something.

   There was a long pause. He whispered something else. Then he smiled in satisfaction and stowed the wire back in its pouch.

   "What was that about?" asked Mythlos.

   "Did you not see her come to her window? I just spoke with the countess. She wants to meet us outside at the cliffs, immediately. Come!"

~~~~


Jayce led them out to the cliffs. Searching around, he eventually found a set of hidden stairs that led down the side of the cliff. They were not visible until one nearly stepped off the edge. "These must be what she meant," he said.

   Carefully and in single file, they descended, holding close to the cliff wall on their right. They came to a small, enclosed alcove. "She said she would meet us here. It seems we have arrived first."

   After a few minutes, there was the sound of grinding stone, and the back wall slid back at an angle like a door. A woman, clad in chainmail and armed with sword and shield stepped out. The adventurers were struck with how similar she looked to Rhinda. She had long, brown hair and was roughly the same height and build with wide hips most suitable for horseback riding. She seemed older, however, and had an air of authority about her that Rhinda lacked.

   Jayce bowed. "Milady, we are honored that you have agreed to speak with us in secret. We were concerned for your safety, if we met in the open."

   "I do not need your protection from my own court, but I would prefer to avoid the hassle of being scolded for leaving my proper place. I am supposed to be a noble now, not an adventuress. That is why I have met you here.

   "Now then, who are my fellow adventurers to be? You must be a bardic warrior. What is your name? And the names of your companions?"

   They each introduced themselves in turn.

   Kyrin continued, "We would do good to have one trained more fully in the arcane arts, but this will suffice, I think. They are only gnolls after all.

   "Enough talk! I am ready to leave at once. If indeed you have found the lair of Garron's murderers, let us be off."

   "Miladay, I understand your haste and desire for revenge," Jayce replied, "but I may share some of the caution your court might express. Should we not plan for our success and not be rash? For our part, we need to wait for morning. My companions are under-prepared at the moment. We have also learned that the gnolls keep a troll."

   "I see," said Kyrin Hawkwinter. "Then we shall need all of the fire spells we can muster. I am not a spellcaster, but I can acquire some alchemist's fire. What else have you already determined? Is this a band of gnolls? or a whole tribe?

   "Or two or three?" said Belvin. "We honestly have no idea."

   "We also have already enlisted the aid of Captain Burnhill and his men, fifteen in all," said Jayce.

   "That was a wise move," she agreed. "And you are correct. My desire for revenge drives me, and I shall think more clearly after I have had a night to process this news.

   "I will depart to my chambers, then, and rest. I shall look forward to fighting alongside each of you on the morrow."
Session: 23rd Game Session - Thursday, Nov 21 2013 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Imago Deorum
Chapter 3 — Sidetracked
   The three riders rode at a light trot, mostly in silence. Gamalon wanted to push on at a faster pace, but Leokas was not used to the jostling in the saddle from the faster gaits. Presumably, Rhinda would have no reason to rush, so if her horse were walking, they still expected to be traveling at twice her speed and were certain to catch up with her.

   When they first set out, Leokas could easily follow Pearl's tracks, as the morning rain had made the ground soft. Shortly, however, the tracks of other horses and travelers made following Rhinda's path nigh impossible.

   For the first hour, no one they saw on the road — farmers and a few caravanners — had seen a woman matching Rhinda's description, but into the second hour, they were able confirm that Rhinda had come this way, riding alone. So they pushed on. After two hours, those they passed on the road had no memory of seeing a female paladin.

   "Did she leave the road?" questioned Gamalon.

   "Perhaps," said Leokas. "If so, I am not sure how to find her. How far is it still to Myratma?"

   "I would estimate under ten miles."

   "Let us press on till then, at least."

   Within a quarter hour they passed a sign on the road, near a small forest.

—>
The Gnomish Village
of
New Sundrah

Mayor Samber SeMilderic
Pop: 626
625
623
624


   "Samber!" exclaimed Leokas.

   "It could just be a coincidence," said Belvin. "Didn't Vashti claim 'Samber' was a common name?"

   "True."

   "I also had the impression from Jayce's reading of the journal that our Samber was definitely not a gnome."

   "Elven friends," said Gamalon. "I urge you not be distracted from the quest at hand. We must find the good paladin."

   "Perhaps this is why she was not seen by the last few we passed," said Leokas. "Perhaps she turned off here. We should at least venture in to check."



   Gamalon agreed, so they turned off the main road and followed the narrow path into the trees. Soon, the tree cover formed a green tunnel over their heads, and they were forced to dismount. After a quarter mile, they came to a clearing in a small valley at the center of a crescent-shaped hill lined with trees. In the center of the clearing were a few tiny, quaint, and colorful houses with smoke rising from the chimneys. There were dozens of tiny wooden doorways into the side of the hill. Little gnomish children, no taller than a foot, were scurrying around playing tag. An adult gnome, about two-and-a-half-feet high with a pointed red hat that made him look half again as tall, approached them, skipping. He had a finely groomed pointed black goatee.

   "Welcome! Welcome, strangers and guests, to the humble village of New Sundrah. I am Nickletwick Nackle, but you can just call me Stumbleduck. How may I be of service?"

   "Well met,... Stumble... duck," said Leokas, not certain if the gnome was actually being serious about what he wished to be called. "I am Leokas Dusktracker. These are Belvin Boarcharger and Gamalon...."

   "Sir Gamalon Valmeyjar," finished Gamalon.

   "We apologize for our abruptness," continued Leokas, "but we must act in haste and do not have time to accept your wonderful hospitality. We are searching for a lost companion, a human woman. She would have been riding a white horse and likely dressed in a cape and armor."

~~~~


   Regrettably, the gnome had been certain that no human had entered their village for several days. The three travelers had apologized again for the intrusion and bid the village farewell. Leokas and Belvin were still curious about the mayor's name, but they could return with the others once they tracked down their missing paladin.

   After five more miles, they came within sight of Myratma. Outside the southern gate as the road approached the bridge over the river, caravans were camped. To Belvin and Leokas, it looked very much like a Calishite city.

   "There lies my current home," said Gamalon. "Would that we had found the lady before mine eyes beheld it again!"

   "What now?" asked Belvin.

   "We have no reason to believe she came this far," said Leokas, "and if she did, how shall we find her in such a large city as this?"

   "We must split up," said Gamalon. "I shall enter Myratma and scour every street and alley; by Torm, I do swear it. Head ye back down the road. Use thy skills as a ranger to find if she did in fact leave the road. Let us meet again either tonight or on the morrow."

   "How shall we find you?" asked Belvin.

   "Meet ye me at the Gambling Ghost. It is a well-known inn, for the place is haunted by an actual ghost — not by a malevolent spirit, but haunted nonetheless. For such, it draws a large crowd each night. Anyone ye meet in the street will know where the place is, but ye can find it in the Central Park District. Thou shalt be pleased to know, Belvin, that it resides across from a druid grove within the park."

~~~~


   So, the two elves returned the way they came, at a walking gait now, so that Leokas could closely observe the edges of the road. If they could find no sign of her after reaching the place where they had last heard news of her, they would give up and return back to the keep.

   After another two and a half hours, Leokas nearly fell out of his saddle with excitement; he had spotted horse tracks leaving the road to the northwest. "Belvin! Pearl's hoof-prints; I am certain of it."

   They dismounted and pushed through some tall grasses, after which, the tracks were very easy to follow. They led up a small slope for maybe a hundred yards.

   "These prints are from a gallop," said Leokas. "Something serious must have pulled her from her journey."

   The elves hurried along. The horse prints ended at a chaotic area of ground, covered in other prints and ripped-up grass.

   "A battle happened here," said Leokas.

   "Yes," agreed Bevlin. "There is blood here." He knelt down, touched a leaf, and licked his finger. "It is not horse blood. That much I know."

   Leokas did not ask how he knew the taste of horse blood. Instead, he was examining large dog-like tracks. "Gnolls," he said. "At least three. Here is half an arrow. Here is where a blade struck this stone and chipped it. It must have been an ambush. But why not on the road? Why did she leave the path?"

   "Perhaps it was a trap, a trick," said Belvin. "If she suspected someone was in danger, would she not be obligated by her code of honor to help? She is a paladin. Look, you can easily see the road from here, but the gnolls could have been hiding behind that cluster of trees there... and there, waiting till she took the bait, whatever it was."

   "Horse tracks continue this way," said Leokas, "as do the gnoll tracks." They followed them west, but lost them after a quarter mile, for the ground became hard stone, and they were walking atop the surface of massive boulders as they approached cliffs. They came to the edge and once again were looking out over the Sword Coast and the wide ocean.

   "Did they go over the cliffs?" asked Belvin.

   "With a horse? I see not how, lest they all decided to end their own lives along with their prisoner."

   They explored the surrounding area. Soon, Leokas spotted tracks again, to the south, where the ground returned to soil. The two jogged quickly until they came to a cluster of dense bushes and the tracks disappeared.

   "Look here!" said Belvin, bending over. "A wooden plank." He brushed away some soil. "No, not a plank, a whole trap door!"

   It was true. The bushes were attached to the top of a ten-foot by fifteen-foot wooden sheet that presumably covered an entrance underground.

   "I expected to find that the woman had simply left us for Myratma and that we would find her on the road," said Leokas, "but it seems Gamalon was right to fear. Now we must make a hard choice. If this is the lair of a pack of gnolls, how many can we expect to encounter? We may have to return to our companions and come back."

   "There is no time," said Belvin. "She is in trouble and we must rescue her."

   "We shall do her no good if we get ourselves killed."

   "At least we will have tried," said Belvin. "We are going in."

~~~~


   Back at el Daraqadim, Hakam and Mythlos clashed swords in one of the gardens, as Mythlos strove to teach the novice swordsman how to parry effectively. "Your feet are planted wrong," he said. "You must always be able to fall back to this stance to resist an overhand swing."

   Jayce was elsewhere. He was still obsessed with learning more about the supposed death of Garron Ersemm. He continued asking around the estate for more information, but everyone seemed to think Rontal was a good man, and Jayce had a hard time finding folk who actually worked there when Master Ersemm was still alive. The captain of the guard of the keep turned out to be an exception.

   His name was Romar Burnhill. Captain Burnhill had led the investigation that sad day. Nothing he explained conflicted with anything they had heard previously, but there were a few new details. Master Ersemm had been stationed at Fort Agis, as were most of his friends, which was why it was so hard to find people at the keep who actually had known him. He had been traveling north with his two companions to Fortress Faithful in the north when the ambush occurred. Captain Burnhill was never able to track down the outpost or lair from which the gnolls had attacked, but he was convinced it had been actual gnolls, having seen the results of many gnoll ambushes during his lifetime.

   "But if you never found his body, how do you know he is dead?" asked Jayce.

   "While it is true that I cannot prove his death," Captain Burnhill replied, "you cannot have much experience with gnolls. They are voracious carnivores; one never finds bodies after a gnoll attack... ever."

~~~~


   It was now mid-afternoon. Jayce was sitting on the grass in the garden strumming on his yarting and smoking his pipe. Hakam sat on a bench reading the laws of Tethyr. Mythlos was pacing near them.

   "If they do not return in the next five minutes, I am going after them," said Mythlos, as he swung his sword at invisible enemies. "I cannot tolerate any more flowers and fountains; I am restless."

   "Clearly," said Jayce.

   "Put your sword away, Mythlos," said Hakam. "There is a fine and a sentence of one night in jail for 'brandishing a weapon dangerously' in Tethyr."

   "I admit I am growing weary of waiting for them too," said Jayce. "It has been five hours at least since they left here. Certainly, they could have gone as far as Myratma and half way back on horseback by now."

   "Belvin will surely come back for Kamil," said Hakam.

   "I've heard there is a gnome village five miles shy of Myratma," said Jayce. "We could leave Kamil and your camel in the care of the stables here and visit some gnomes. I hear they are quite the fun crowd."

   "Do I look like a fun cleric?"

   "At least let us get out for some exercise," said Jayce. "If something did happen to the other three, we'll know sooner, in any case."

   So Hakam rolled up his scroll and the three of them rented horses from the stables and set out.

~~~~


   With some difficulty, Leokas and Belvin together slid the trap door closed, sealing themselves in almost total darkness. They stood on solid rock, on a descending slope in a tunnel about nine feet in diameter. They held their breaths and listened carefully, but could not hear anything except a breeze or a few drops of water.

   "I believe gnolls can see in complete darkness," whispered Leokas. "If we carry a light source we'll be easily detected by them. I recommend we roll my last sunrod down the slope. We'll get a glimpse of the terrain ahead, and it should draw out any hiding guards. I can pick a couple gnolls off from this position, but if there are too many we can easily retreat above ground." He did such, and they watched it roll and bounce some distance down the straight passage until the curve in the descent caused it to pass out of vision. Then even the glow from the sunrod vanished.

   "The tunnel is longer than I expected," whispered Leokas. "I was hoping we would not need to travel far from the entrance before assessing the strength and number of the gnoll forces.

   "I think we can manage in the dark if we wait a few minutes for our eyes to adjust. I think I can still see a faint glow from the sunrod and we know that the way is safe for at least a hundred feet."

   Belvin nodded.

   They moved forward slowly in the dark, testing each step before planting their feet. They traveled perhaps twenty yards. "I see light ahead, faint. Our sunrod?" whispered Belvin. Before they reached it, they each noticed something move in the shadows at the very edge of their vision, about eighty feet away. It was a medium sized beast that went on all fours.

   "We've not been detected; we need to kill this guard before it can warn the others," said Leokas.

   Leokas and Belvin moved forward fifteen feet and loosed arrows in parallel. They heard two yips, and the creature darted away down the tunnel.

   "More gnolls will surely be coming soon," remarked Belvin.

   "We may still be able to handle them. We just passed a side tunnel on our right," said Leokas, still whispering.

   "There is another in ten feet on the left," replied Belvin. They inched forward. "I think I hear... snoring." Leokas nodded, hearing the same.

   Belvin drew his sickle. "It is time to reap gnoll heads," he said.

   "But it is utter darkness down that path," said Leokas. "The only way we can go is toward the light of the sunrod and where that animal ran."

   "There is another source of light available to us," said Belvin. He began whispering a prayer and waving his arms in time. There was a spark of light down the tunnel to the left, which grew into a raging flame and took the upper torso of a humanoid with black coals for eyes. They could see that in fifteen feet the side tunnel opened into a round cavern chamber. The fire elemental noticed immediately what the two elves did. The snoring had come not from a gnoll but some other creature, an enormous mossy green creature sitting on the ground with its massive head between its thick knees.

   "What is it?" asked Leokas.

   Bevlin did not know, but rather than saying so, he began summoning a second elemental. The first lashed out with its fiery appendages and struck the giant. Its black, coarse, bush-like head of hair ignited, and it woke with a roar. Standing to its feet, it revealed itself to be a nine-foot tall, lumbering mass with long, dangling arms and a severely ugly face and long nose. It frantically quenched the fire in its hair with its massive palms.

   "A troll," said Leokas. He loosed one magic arrow and two regular ones. All three struck the monster in the chest, but it acted as if it didn't notice the shafts stuck in its bump-covered body. "I think the only way to kill them is with fire."

   The second fire elemental appeared, and both attacked and stuck the troll with their glowing, burning bodies. Belvin began summoning a third without hesitation. "Why do you think I am summoning more fire elementals?"

   Enraged, the troll cried out in a throaty language that echoed through the cavern tunnels. It pummled the little fire elemental that flickered beside it, knocking it back several yards. It vanished in a puff of smoke. The troll snapped at the second elemental, catching its "head" in its large mouth, shaking it violently until it also vanished, just as the third elemental appeared.

   "We do not stand a chance against that thing," said Leokas. "If Rhinda was not already fed to this beast, we shall have to pray to our gods for her protection. We need our companions. We'll return."

   "Not yet," said Belvin. Had Leokas been able to see his face, he would have clearly seen a primal rage growing.

   Leokas heard footsteps coming up the main tunnel — the footsteps of many padded feet. Then came the awful, unmistakable cries of hyenas and the cackling of gnoll voices.

   Leokas turned into the tunnel with his bow ready. "Belvin!" he shouted, "Do not tarry. We must fly!"

   The remaining fire elemental swung at the troll, but the bigger creature avoided the blow. Then it caught the elemental in both claws and ripped it into two puffs of smoke.

   That convinced Belvin.

   The two elves stumbled frequently as they ran in the darkness uphill toward the tiny sliver of light at the trap door above them. The gnolls were almost upon them. An arrow stuck the wall to Leokas' left.

   They reached the wooden ceiling and together shoved it open to four-feet wide so they could squeeze through. As they ran to the cluster of trees where their borrowed horses were tied, Belvin was casting another spell. He turned and pointed, and the bushes and grasses around the lair entrance sprange to life, just as a thick-maned head came in view. A vine wrapped around the gnolls neck, choking it. Leokas sent two arrows into the gnoll, through shoulder and forehead. Its limp body fell back into the tunnel, hanging from the enchanted vine for a moment, before the vine sought out a living target.

   The elves waited for the next gnoll to attempt to exit the tunnel, but the creatures proved smarter than that. Instead, they closed themselves back in their cave, daring them to return to face them and their troll.
Session: 23rd Game Session - Thursday, Nov 21 2013 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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Tags: Battle , Chapter 3 , Recap