Last we saw our heroes, they had arrived at Oleg’s Trading Post to conduct business and resupply. After some deep, soul-searching discussions with Jhod Kavken, the Cleric of Erastil who had asked for the party to locate and escort him to a lost temple to his god, it was decided that they would escort the man to his temple, which they found a few weeks previous. With Gavriil the Human Arcanist still being cross at Jhod for refusing to provide healing without monetary compensation, it was an uncomfortable two-day ride with the Cleric taking Trytor the reformed bandit’s horse. Once they arrived back at the temple, Elysia the Half-Elf Ranger began to sneak in towards the cave where the cursed bear had appeared from previously…unfortunately, her sword clanged into a pillar and alerted the temple’s guardian!
The battle that ensued was quick and mostly painless…unless you happened to be Jhod. The priest was able to give Erastil’s protection to three of the party before the bear was upon them, shouldering an enlarged Elysia out of the way and ignoring the attacks from Eneko the Human Bard/Cavalier. Noruas the Human Gunslinger, meanwhile, continued to sit in her wagon, preparing to fire her rifle at the creature should he threaten her friends. The bear made unfortunately short work of Jhod, with Eneko and Gavriil tossing spells at it the whole while, and Elysia and Trytor attempting to fill the creature with arrows and steel. Despite attempts to heal the Cleric with potions, he was sufficiently mauled to death by the guardian, before being put down by the Ranger.
While reasonably upset that Jhod would no longer be able to fulfill his promise of free healing to the party, Gavriil made no short work of looting the Cleric’s body, taking recompense in the form of claimed gold and items. It was decided to give Jhod a nice funeral pyre farewell, and the party made camp near the temple for the night. Having decided to attempt to finish exploring their chartered territory, the party set off the next day for the Thorn river, following it south until they arrived at the river crossing. With the day being late, the group decided to spur their horses forward faster, and arrived at their sycamore hideout briefly into the night.
The next morning saw them exploring the hills around the Sootscale Kobold’s cavern, their progress being halted by the river marching eastward. The Kobolds played brief host to the group as they stopped for a visit, and wished them all safe travels through the Kamelands. The next day they continued exploring, following the river, until they eventually came to an old rotted bridge with just a single rope extending across. Each side of the river had a sign on it with an old bell, which read “Nettle’s Crossing, ring bell for service.” The Arcanist wasted no time in ringing the bell, which prompted something strange and unearthly to rise from the waters!
Emerging from the river came what appeared to be the desiccated corpse of a man, holding a dripping wet ranseur and walking over top the river waves towards the party! From its mouth issued a wet, ominous warning: Throw to him the body of the Stag Lord, or join him in watery doom! The party decided to walk away before the creature made it to shore, and finished mapping out the rest of the surrounding area.
The next day, it was decided to take a look at an area they had yet to explore slightly to their north, where they were able to find a tree that matched something they had found on a map over a month ago. Using this map, they spent a bit of time and were able to dig up an old forgotten cache, perhaps left by a wizard. Gavriil was delighted to add some new spells to his own spellbook, and the remaining gear did not go unwanted either. More exploration found them a cave filled with sulfur and other gunpowder-related materials which Noruas was excited to find, as she realized that it could prove to be a superior source of needed materials for her musket.
After realizing that there was no crossing the river while staying within the bounds of their official charter, the party made a decision to double-back and deal with the one pressing threat that had been upon them since the beginning: The Stag Lord and his bandits who had been terrorizing the Stolen Lands. On the way back through they stopped yet again with the Kobolds to chat, before continuing across the Thorn river and south-west to camp for the night, about two hours away from their adversary’s fort.
It was here that disaster struck! Early in the morning of the later half of Gozran, Gavriil was on watch when he and the party were taken surprise by a bandit raiding party! A dozen bandits launched sneak-attacks upon the resting party and their horses, wounding several of the PC’s and severely injuring three of the horses. The bandits were led by a man in robes, shouting at the party that this was the reward they got for trespassing upon the Stag Lord’s lands!
The battle was quick and fierce, with the bandits being wiped out quickly before much more harm could come to the party. Some of their horses were nearly slain, falling unconscious and bleeding out until the party was able to use their magic and potions to heal the creatures. Though some of the bandits attempted to flee after seeing their leader shot, they were soon enough filled with arrows and bullets, leaving a party moderately damaged and low on resources. Spending some time mending wounds, the group came up with a plan: The Stag Lord would be at his weakest now, with a baker’s dozen of his men recently slain and not expecting an attack. Clearly, their only course of action was to lead with an attack!
PLAYERS, DON’T READ
Such an excellent development, this session went exactly as I could have hoped. A quick resolution to the lost temple of Erastil, though with some unforseen consequences– being the only obvious worshiper of Erastil, the bear took to Jhod with a fervor and managed to roll well enough to take him down not once, but a second time when he was healed from -12 hit points, this time putting him down for good. A shame that they won’t get the free healing from Jhod, however they did seem to toss around the idea of showing the place off to the next Cleric of Erastil they found in the hopes that he would be graceful enough to match Jhod’s offer of free spellcasting services.
Exploration continued along apace, with the remaining easily available hexes taken care of this time around. Another unexpected complication soon arose from the party’s choice to travel around with a wagon: the Shrike river that moves into the Nomen Heights has no easy crossing in the Kamelands for a large vehicle like a wagon, unlike the Thorn River’s fords and bridges. When the party reached the edge of the current map, I offered to them that they could continue in that direction if they wished, but they decided to stick to their charter for the moment, and instead turn their attention on the bandits.
When preparing for the session, I laid out a timetable for the bandit who had escaped from the party outside Oleg’s Trading Post. He made it back to the Stag Lord’s camp about two days after the group dealt with the lost Temple of the Elk, and the Stag Lord reacted accordingly, calling in most of his groups of bandits in order to organize searches for the adventuring party. With this, I figured the most heavily patrolled area would be the hex where the Stag Lord’s fort resided. I gave it a 50/50 chance that any party camping for the night in that hex would get a run-in with a bandit party, and as luck would have it they were actually silly enough to camp there!
It was a good encounter, because I’d wanted to get an excuse to attack the party’s horses– hit them where it really hurts. A Stag Lord heavily annoyed with the party and ready for revenge was the perfect time to issue orders to slow up the party by killing their mounts, and so I got to nearly take out half of their horses. As it ended up, they spent a good deal of their resources getting the horses back into good health– ironically, they spent more spells and potions on the horses than they did on themselves. I was very interested to see that they wanted to continue forward with their plan to take out the Stag Lord after that, being of middling hit points as well as having spent some spell slots for the day. It’s going to be a fun encounter for next session!