Having taken care of business at Oleg’s (which included Gavriil the Human Arcanist talking to Kesten Garess about Falgrim Sneeg, and learning more about the tragic backstory of Jhod Khavken, almost excommunicated priest of Erastil), the party began their trek across the Kamelands into the Narlmarshes, planning to explore a small portion of the forest before continuing north back onto the plains. The plan was a sound one, but it was complicated by a late night visitor in the forest. Elysia the Half-Elf Ranger was on watch at the time, keeping her keen Elven eyes peeled for danger. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary at all, she was thusly taken completely by surprise when the nearby shrubbery rose up and attempted to devour her!
With a yelp of surprise, Elysia raised the alarm! Apparently startled by its prey’s response, the rest of the party was able to rouse from their slumber and prepare to defend themselves! Gavriil attempted to cast a Color Spray upon the plant, but soon realized that the creature had no mind to be affected! Fortunately, Gavriil was able to identify the creature as a Shambling Mound– a fearsome carnivorous plant who seemed to have set its sight upon the party! Noruas, sleeping in the wagon, rolled over, aimed down her musket barrel, and fired a devastating shot into the shambling mound…a critical hit! This proved to be the advantage that the party needed, as soon after the critically wounded plant attacked and grabbed Eneko the Human Bard/Cavalier, starting the slow process of crushing the life out of him. Thankfully, some handy axe-strikes from Elyssia and a final musket ball from Noruas put the creature own, though not before it heavily damaged both the Ranger and the Bard.
The next day saw the party exploring more of the forest before spilling out onto the plains once again, reaching the north-westernmost border of their charter. Their night on the plains was uneventful, but the next morning they rose to the sight of a large hailstorm striking their campsite. Having made the decision to continue onwards despite the setback, the group was only able to cover about half the ground they would normally have done that day, and their camp was made just inside the shelter of the Narlmarshes that night.
Further exploration began upon the morning of the next day, and near the middle of the day it was Elyssia’s misfortune to stumble upon an unmarked bear trap! Surviving the encounter with a badly mangled foot, Elyssia soon found (in a much less painful manner) three more of these unmarked bear traps, which Noruas quickly dismantled and stowed away in the wagon for a rainy day. Knowing that it took a particularly nasty hunter to leave unmarked traps in a forest frequented by sentient beings, and being somewhat angry at having been caught in one herself, Elyssia took upon herself the task of tracking down this hunter. The party followed after her as she followed the three-day-old tracks, heading west until they hit a portion of the Thorn River, then following the tracks along the river for several more miles.
It was at the end of the day that the adventurers finally came across the end of the tracks: in a small clearing, a body lay half buried under a pile of logs, which further investigation revealed to have been half rigged into a deadfall trap, something clearly having gone wrong. Elyssia’s keen eyes were able to notice that the ropes that had been holding in place the large logs were not snapped, but in fact hat been cut through! Gavriil suspected Fey sabotage, but it was impossible for them to confirm their theory.
After camping that night, the party doubled back upon their path from the day before, returning to the area with the unmarked traps. The rest of their day was spent finding, disarming, and collecting the traps, and similarly the next morning they finished off the last of them, having gathered a total of twenty large bear traps. From their they headed south-west again, making sure to fully explore the area around the Thorn river, having found the source of the river in a spring in the forest. While camping that night, they encountered another trapper named Brand, who spent the night with them and traded some tales with the party, speaking of the time he was chased by a pack of trolls for three days and three nights, as well as sharing some of his knowledge of the local area– pointing the party towards the temple which Jhod had hoped the party would find and help him restore!
From there, the party headed east to explore the western bank of the Thorn river that they had followed along many days previous, before veering off south-west in the direction of the Temple of Erastil that Brand helped them find. It was the end of the day when the group came across what they were seeking: A clearing in the forest which hosted a pool of water, backed by a massive boulder whose face opened into a cave from which a loud, low growling soon emanated….
PLAYERS, DO NOT READ!
Not too much to say here– things moving along pretty well, the party coming along nicely. When the first night of traveling resulted in a roll of a 1 on the d%, I knew that it was time to bring out the worst of my pre-rolled random encounters: The Shambling Mound. Being a night-time encounter, that just made stuff all the worse. On the other hand, it was the Ranger who was on watch at the time, and she has the highest Perception check of the entire group, combined…an amazing total of 29 would surely be enough to spot the shambling mound! But alas, the mound’s Stealth was just a smidge higher at 32, and so I gave the mound a surprise round attack on Elyssia, thankfully missing its second attack and only dealing about fourteen damage.
And then things started going wrong for the poor creature. An initiative roll of 4 put the mound at the bottom of the turn order, which allowed the party to get back on their feet and respond to the threat. The Gunslinger’s first attack was an amazing 4x critical– something to the order of fifty points of damage, and taking almost all of the mound’s HP out in one fell swoop. At this point, I realized the potential TPK that I had expected had turned into merely a slightly deadly encounter. When the Ranger moved in close enough to slice at the plant for a second time, she was taken down by an attack of opportunity, and then Eneko was attacked and grabbed, the Constrict ability placing him in the negatives as well. Healing was quickly administered though as just a few moments later, Noruas shot it dead. Had it survived another round or two, I would have had the plant take out one or two of the PC’s horses– hitting them where it really hurts, but which wouldn’t have left any of them dead…I’m saving that idea for later, I think.
Other than that, I’ve got a few thoughts about moving forward– the biggest thing on my mind right now being the bandits and the Stag Lord himself. The rest of the poisoned wine had very little effect on the boss, but by the end of this session the party has been adventuring in the Stolen Lands for four weeks. Their first day saw the defeat of a group of bandits who regularly stole from the Trading Post, and they encountered and beat a second group of bandits just a few days later. A third time they encountered bandits at the Thorn River Camp, taking out Kressle and all but their new friend Trytor. Now, they’ve visited the Stag Lord’s fort…and throughout all this, they have managed to not leave any survivors who knew who they were.
By now, the Stag Lord has found out of the disappearance of Kressle and her crew, it being more than two weeks since they were all killed. With knowledge of this, the Stag Lord would have attempted to figure out who was responsible, and thus I feel it appropriate to have sent a bandit or two, in disguise, to Oleg’s to try and figure out what was going on. From there, that bandit learned of the party, got their descriptions, and know that they occasionally stop by the trading post. If my math is right, the timeline will line up with that bandit spy reaching the fort the day before the party ended the past session, and I’m going to have the Stag Lord organize some raiding parties to begin combing the Kamelands and then the Narlmarshes to try and find the party, led by one or two of his lieutenants in order to bring the Stolen Lands back under the Stag Lord’s heel.